Libby Jarrett outlined the new Household Support Fund which had been launched by the Government. The following points were included:
· Funding had been delivered to Devon County Council who must work with District Councils to develop support schemes.
· The money must be spent by the end of March 2022 and 50% must go to families with children.
· Funding is for immediate needs such as food, energy and water and can also be used for wider essentials such as boiler servicing and transport related costs.
· Funding can be used for housing costs where an existing support scheme does not meet an exceptional need.
· Other examples of hardship support which is available included funding for school holiday voucher scheme, funding for Citizens Advice Devon for energy relief schemes, support for Action for Children Centres and funding for BAME groups. Further details of some of these schemes is still awaited.
· EDDC had received just over £142,000 of the Government funding distributed by DCC.
· The EDDC scheme has been live for a week and the application form for those requesting support is on the EDDC website under the ‘Request Financial Support’ tab.
· The application form is generic in order to cover most hardship applications and Officers will work with applicants to understand the root causes and wider needs as well as identifying all types of support which the applicant may qualify for.
· The data obtained will help to inform future policy development and interventions.
Sharon Church, Benefits Manager, reported on the number of applications received in the first week of the Household Support Fund being live and updated Members on the development of the dashboard and the work of the Financial Resilience Officers in partnership with other organisations. The update included the following points:
· During the first week of the scheme, 90 applications had been received.
· 35 awards had been made totalling £3,515, the majority of which were for food, energy and water costs.
· 63% of the awards were made to households with children.
· 24% of applications came from households with at least one person in work.
· The data showed that single people continue to struggle financially and data analysis would enable greater understanding of household make up.
· EDDC Officers would continue to work with partners to identify residents who would not normally apply for support, or who would seek support elsewhere.
· Officers would continue to work with Team Devon to understand wider poverty issues.
Discussion included the following:
· There was concern that a number of people seeking support are in work.
· The rising cost of living is a significant cause for concern.
· Regarding communication with residents, it was noted that social media is used regularly, however, other avenues should also be used such as local newspapers, to ensure maximum coverage. Schools and Citizens Advice are also effective means of communication. Foodbanks should be notified of the Household Support Fund as soon as possible.
· It was noted that a fund of £100,000 remains set aside for hardship support in East Devon.
· DCC also holds a balance of £5million which will be reviewed in the new year.
· There was concern regarding homelessness among single people as well as family homelessness due to high rent arrears.
· Very high rents in the private rental sector are exacerbating the problem.
· It was noted that EDDC is experiencing issues with recruiting a Housing Options Officer.
· Concern was expressed regarding loan sharks in the run up to Christmas. Officers are not aware of any incidences of residents using loan sharks, however, it was difficult to collect information for various reasons.
· Libby Jarrett would liaise with Team Devon to co-ordinate awareness and advice for residents about the problems associated with using loan sharks.
The Chair thanked Libby Jarrett and Sharon Church for their reports and presentation.