Millions more to be spent on help for vulnerable households this winter
Hampshire’s most vulnerable residents will not be left out in the cold this winter, thanks to a range of measures to help people with the costs of food, fuel and other essentials.
Using its latest round of Household Support Funding from the Department for Work and Pensions, Hampshire County Council will be investing more than £7 million in a wide variety of schemes and initiatives targeting households facing hardship, between now and March 2023.
The initiatives will expand on what was offered in the previous funding round to include support for foster carers registered with the County Council, unpaid carers, care leavers, and people with disabilities. It will also widen the support available to reach out to those who may not be eligible for other assistance but are nevertheless in need.
Councillor Roz Chadd, the County Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services commented: “With the rising cost of living now widely felt by everybody, we understand that there are residents who are struggling but don’t qualify for other packages of support and are at risk of slipping through the net. I am pleased to approve these latest funding allocations, which recognise and respond to the needs of Hampshire residents in this position while ensuring continued focused support for the most vulnerable, who are undoubtedly the hardest hit.”
The schemes will be delivered across Hampshire via the County Council’s ‘connect4communities’ programme and will include:
discretionary grants to schools, colleges and early years settings – these may be used to help families with costs relating to food, energy, water, school uniform and other wider essentials, and do not need to be limited to children whose families receive certain benefits;
food vouchers – these will be made available to eligible Hampshire residents including foster carers registered with the County Council, individuals known to the Care Leavers team, families open to the Disabled Children’s Team, residents who receive council tax support, and residents who receive Housing Benefit but are ineligible for other forms of support;
support for unpaid carers – funding will be made available to organisations working with unpaid carers, to be directed to those in greatest need;
grants for community and voluntary organisations to help meet needs within their local communities;
funding for Citizens Advice to provide help with fuel and utility bills.
This latest instalment of Household Support Funding follows the previous funding round, which ran from April to September this year. During this period, discretionary grants to educational settings supported over 69,000 of Hampshire’s most vulnerable families with the costs of food, energy and other essential items. 80 charities and community associations used their community grant funding to support more than 11,000 households; local district and borough councils provided one-off food vouchers to almost 80,000 eligible households; and just under 5,000 households received help with their utility bills via Citizens Advice.
The funding also provided ongoing support to Hampshire’s network of 19 Community Pantries, which now have more than 5,000 members collectively. Pantries provide significant benefits for families as they are open access and, in exchange for a small membership fee, pantry members can purchase groceries at a much lower cost than supermarkets. Pantries will continue to receive support via the newest round of Household Support Funding, to help them respond to increased food costs and provide wider support services for vulnerable pantry members.
Councillor Chadd added: “I am exceptionally proud of what we were able to achieve in the last funding round, working in close collaboration with other councils, schools and community groups to target support to where it was needed most urgently.
“As we head into winter and of course the festive period, we know that people will feel the impact of rising costs more acutely. This ongoing support will be vital to making the load that little bit lighter for vulnerable families during these most challenging of times.
“I would urge anyone who is unsure if they can access support, to email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the connect4communties website.”
The recommended funding allocations for the period covering October 2022 to March 2023 were approved by Councillor Chadd at her Decision Day on Tuesday 22 November. Full details of the approved allocations are available from the Decision Report on the County Council’s website.