Household Support Fund scheme
1. The Household Support Fund will operate between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023.
2. It will provide help to residents who are struggling to afford energy, food and water bills. In addition, the scheme will cover items which may directly affect a household's ability to afford energy food and water, including:
- Essentials linked to energy and water, e.g. warm clothing, blankets, toiletries, boiler replacements / repairs, cookers or white goods.
- Other essential household bills, e.g. telephone or broadband, clothing or essential transport-related costs.
3. In exceptional circumstances, the scheme may also be used to support housing costs, where existing housing support schemes do not meet the need. Discretionary Housing Payments will be used in the first instances and the fund will not be used to support ongoing housing costs, unsustainable tenancies, or mortgage arrears.
4. In line with guidance issued by the Department for Work and Pensions, at least a third of expenditure will be spent on families with children and at least a further third on households that have reached state-retirement age.
5. If you are eligible to receive a grant payment under this scheme, you will not be required to pay it back and it will not be treated as income for tax or benefit purposes.
6. Applications from those in immediate need:
- An application process will be available to households where there is an immediate need to provide financial help towards energy, food, water and wider essentials. The applicant will need to demonstrate that they are on a low-income and that they are struggling to pay their bills under one or more of the broad qualification categories in paragraphs 2 and 3.
- A separate simplified application process will be provided for organisations that directly support households in need.
7. Payment in lieu of free school meal during school holidays. Vouchers or direct payment will be made to families in receipt of free school meals during holiday periods including qualifying children in nursery provision.
8. Additional energy and cost of living costs, In addition to the £150 Council Tax energy rebate and the wider range of support packages provided by the government, a further payment will be made to eligible households during the year to help towards increased energy costs:
- To reduce the administration burden on applicants, a direct award will be made to households in receipt of Council Tax Reduction (including those that would have been eligible had a Council Tax exemption not been in place) or who are in receipt of pension credit.
- An application process will be available for other lower-income households that do not qualify for Council Tax Reduction but meet one of the following criteria:
- Earning below £26,000 in respect of couples with or without children and £15,600 in respect of single people
- In receipt of Universal Credit and earnings below £7,400
- Working Tax Credit
- A resident in the household is in receipt of either Attendance Allowance, Carers Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment or is a Care Leaver
- Those who are ineligible for other government support
- The council will also continue to work with organisations to identify eligible households that require support under this scheme or who have been unable to qualify for other help.
9. An online application form will be available for those seeking emergency assistance under the scheme.
10. A telephone service will be available to residents who do not have access to online services.
11. Applications will be cross-checked to other services including where applicable to data held by the Department for Work and Pensions.
12. The council will use a fraud prevention tool to verify bank accounts for those who have opted to be paid by bank transfer.
13. Anyone who attempts to claim a payment under this scheme by falsely declaring their circumstances or providing a false statement or evidence may have committed an offence under the Fraud Act 2006. St Helens Borough Council will investigate all allegations of fraud and may take criminal proceedings or apply other sanctions in appropriate circumstances.
14. If a resident receives a payment to which they are not entitled, they will be asked to repay it.