Cost of living crisis: How to access the £200 direct payment for household support

·4-min read

British consumers are currently struggling with soaring bills, more expensive goods in the supermarket and rocketing fuel prices on petrol station forecourts as the cost of living crisis continues to bite.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been criticised for not doing more to ease the squeeze on domestic budgets but one measure he has introduced is the Household Support Fund, enabling local councils across the country to grant money directly to families who need a helping hand.

The £500 million fund was first announced on 30 September 2021 as a means of boosting the economic bounceback from the pandemic, intended, in part, to compensate for the end of the furlough scheme and the £20 boost to Universal Credit.

Mr Sunak said at the time that the measure would “provide a lifeline for those at risk of struggling to keep up with their bills over the winter, adding to the support the government is already providing to help people with the cost of living”.

It was intended to run from 6 October until 31 March 2022, with £421 million given to councils in England, £41 million handed to the Scottish government, £25 million to the Welsh government and £14 million to the Northern Ireland executive.

Mr Sunak subsequently extended the scheme in his Spring Statement on 23 March, making another £500 million available between 1 April 2022 and 30 September 2022 in recognition of the dire economic conditions, exacerbated at least in part by the fallout from Russia’s savage invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

Two months later, he extended it again so that it will now run until the end of March 2023, taking the total to £1.5 billion in order to, as the chancellor put it, help those who might otherwise “fall between the cracks”.

Local authorities have been instructed to use their own discretion in issuing grants to worthy applicants, meaning that how much individuals receive could vary between households depending on their circumstances, although £200 is the headline rate.

“The new Household Support Fund will be distributed by councils in England to directly help those who need it most,” the government said.

Cost of living: How to get help

The cost of living crisis has touched every corner of the UK, pushing families to the brink with rising food and fuel prices. The Independent has asked experts to explain small ways you can stretch your money, including managing debt and obtaining items for free.

- If you need to access a food bank, find your local council’s website and then use the local authority’s site to locate your nearest centre.

- The Trussell Trust, which runs many foodbanks, has a similar tool.

- Citizens Advice provides free help to people in need. The organisation can help you find grants or benefits, or advise on rent, debt and budgeting.

- If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

“The grant will be distributed through small payments to support vulnerable households [and enable them to] meet daily needs such as food, clothing, and utilities.”

That leaves individual councils setting the criteria for eligible applicants based on specific levels of need in their area.

For example, in the London Borough of Enfield, the grant is distributed by the council identifying those most in need from the schools and benefits information it holds, whereas Birmingham City Council asks applicants to go through an assessment process to determine eligibility.

As such, the process of applying begins through your local council’s website, which you can find here by entering your postcode.

Search “Household Support Fund” on your local authority’s site for more details about how funds are allocated and distributed in your area to see whether you are eligible for a grant and, if so, how much.

Other measures the chancellor has brought in as part of his effort to tackle the economic turmoil so far include a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, a £650 one-off payment for Universal Credit and benefits claimants, a £300 one-off payment to pensioners on low incomes, an additional £150 one-off disability payment and a £400 energy discount for every household.

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