Thousands of households could be in line for free cash, food vouchers and furniture – here's how

THOUSANDS of households struggling amidst the cost of living crisis could be in line for food vouchers, furniture and free cash.

The extra help is part of the Household Support Fund (HSF), a scheme launched last October, which has since been extended by chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The scheme was designed to help those in most need with money towards the rising cost of food, energy, and water bills, which have all rocketed to eye-watering highs in recent months.

Local councils are allotted a portion of the HSF and can allocate their money to residents in their area.

Each council decides who is eligible and what help is given.

For example, Reading Council is giving pensioners energy vouchers worth £98, and families a sum of £49 to help cover similar costs.

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Others, such as Torbay Council, are giving eligible cash-strapped residents a maximum of £50 towards food, and where necessary, another £50 towards energy bills.

And Norfolk County Council last month announced its Cost of Living Support Scheme, a £7.7million package of support for residents.

The council has added £1million from its own budget to the £6.7million of government funding it was allocated through the HSF.

The money will be used to help households struggling to pay for food, fuel, energy and water bills, and other essentials.

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What help can I get?

Norfolk County Council previously offered financial support to those struggling post-pandemic and as a bridge between the end of furlough and the Universal Credit uplift.

However, Cllr Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, said the main challenge was now the spiralling cost of living.

"That’s why we’ve created a new scheme that is flexible and can reach a broader range of people than previous hardship schemes.

"This includes families in need, older people and other vulnerable households," he said last month.

The new Cost of Living Support Scheme has been split into portions, which will be allocated to different areas of the county.

£3.6million will be given to families in the form of seven monthly cost of living vouchers for children who are eligible for means-tested free school meals.

The payments will be £15 per month, per child, with an enhanced payment of £30 for August to coincide with the school summer holidays.

This will equate to £120 per child over the course of the scheme.

The vouchers will be paid from April up to and including October. The vouchers from April will be backdated.

What other help is available?

Another £1million will be allocated to the council’s Norfolk Assistance Scheme (NAS) to support families in hardship, where there isn’t eligibility for free school meals.

The support is available to families with very young children, young carers, and families caring for children with disabilities.

You may be eligible for the scheme if the following have happened:

  • Redundancy
  • Work hours have been cut
  • On a low income or benefits
  • Waiting for Universal Credit payments
  • A home emergency such a fire or flood
  • Have a special educational need or disability
  • Have mental health issues or in ill health
  • Have left an abusive relationship
  • Have dependent children
  • In a resettlement scheme

If you are eligible, the NAS can provide emergency financial help, supply essential household goods and furniture and give support, guidance and advice.

You can apply for help through the scheme on Norfolk County Council's website.

A further £2.2million will be used to provide cash and vouchers to residents aged 65.

One project will see the council work to support Anglian Water customers who are on the companies' social tariffs, which means they are in financial difficulty.

These customer will be offered support to reduce and prevent their debt.

Support will also come through the Norfolk Assistance Scheme.

The remaining £840,000 will be given to support other residents in need.

District, borough and city councils will be given money for residents struggling with housing concerns and voluntary sector agencies will be able to refer those they are working with to the council for support.

Residents wanting to know if they are eligible for support from the Cost of Living Support Scheme can contact Norfolk County Council on 0344 800 8020.

Can I get help if I don't live in Norfolk?

The answer is yes. Local councils have each been given a specific amount out of the Household Support Fund to allocate to their most in need residents.

In Cornwall, residents can claim up to £180 in support, while in Brighton and Hove people could get £105 to cover essentials over the upcoming school breaks.

It's best to check in with your own local authority to find out what may be up for grabs as well as how you can apply.

In addition, the support package announced by the Chancellor last month is offering residents further targeted support.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak said on average each UK household would get £550.

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Among some of the support, the Chancellor announced:

  • a windfall tax on gas and oil firms to partially fund the support
  • £300 one-off payment to low-income pensioners
  • £150 extra one-off disability payment
  • £400 energy discount for EVERY household
  • An extra £500million for the Household Support Fund

Thousands of households are also in line for a £150 council tax rebate in the coming weeks as well.

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