Agenda item

Housing Support Fund update


The Service Lead – Revenues and Benefits introduced a briefing on the Additional Discretionary Fund.  This follows Members approval at full Council on 19 October 2022, where Officers were asked to investigate creating an Additional Discretionary Fund using evidence from the Social Resilience (Poverty) Dashboard, and how this could be financed and resourced.


At the 2 November 2022 Cabinet Meeting under the report titled “Household Support Fund (HSF) and Discretionary Fund” it was highlighted that the Council already had funds set aside of £257K within the Hardship Fund to support households struggling to afford essentials. It was proposed that this funding could be used in addition to the Household Support Funding to help households struggling. 


The previous Covid-19 Hardship Policy has been updated and renamed the Cost of Living Hardship Fund, to run alongside the Housing Support Fund (HSF) Policy.  This updated draft policy allows flexibility over how the fund of £257K will be utilised.  Currently, the Council is not in a position to identify where the need is for further support until the targeted funding from the HSF has been distributed and there is a better understanding of who is approaching through the open application process.  As the HSF is time limited, the Council will always seek to use that funding first.


A full equality impact assessment will be presented to Cabinet as part of the proposed draft policy, if Working Panel members agree to this approach.


The report also detailed other schemes in place to support people with the cost of living including the Energy Rebate Scheme, Working Age Council Tax Reduction Scheme, Alternative Funding Scheme and Alternative Fuel Payment.


The following points were made in discussion:

·        It is important to get the word out about the HSF, via social media as well as flyers in community centres, and the Financial Resilience Team are already active out in the community and working with partnership organisations.

·        There are a lot of people living in mobile homes, on boats and in caravans who will need help with the cost of heating; however it is not currently known if these households will meet the eligibility criteria for the Alternative Funding Scheme, which includes being registered for Council Tax.  Anyone who is struggling can make contact and the Council will look to provide emergency support if it is needed.

·        The Social Resilience Team are working to understand the reasons why some households do not want to receive funding, to help inform their work going forward, in particular with the Discretionary Fund.  The Service Lead – Revenues and Benefits will report back on this to the Working Panel at a future meeting.

·        People on Pension Credit receive extra Government support through the Cost of Living Payment and those who are registered disabled will have received an additional payment automatically.  People are also often linking in with voluntary groups, and so have a support network.  Some pensioners have an income level which means they sit just slightly above the thresholds to access Pension Credit and this is a cohort of people to whom the Council would like to try to promote the HSF.

·        For the next meeting the Service Lead – Revenues and Benefits will present a version of the Social Resilience (Poverty) Dashboard that can be provided as an interim measure until such time as IT upgrade work is complete, which will enable a public facing version to be published, and an appropriate version to be made available for Members. 

In a vote, Members of the Working Panel endorsed the report.

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