Call to extend government funding to support most vulnerable in Rotherham

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The government says that funding for councils to support vulnerable residents is ‘under review’, following calls from the leader of Rotherham Council to extend the scheme.

The Household Support Fund was introduced in September 2021 to help vulnerable residents throughout the winter and is distributed by councils in the form of payments for those struggling to afford essentials.

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Rotherham Council has used the money to fund supermarket vouchers for 12,000 children entitled to free school meals, help with council tax for low-income households, and energy crisis grants. It is set to run until 31 March 2024.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says the funding is ‘under review’, and it is unclear if it will continue past this date.

Councillor Chris Read, Labour leader of Rotherham Council, says that clarity is needed ‘urgently’, as the support will come to an end if the scheme is not extended – with borough food bank demand trebling.

This week Rotherham Council’s cabinet will set out its intention to use the remaining £500,000 balance to provide energy crisis payments to up to 2,200 more households who are unable to pay their energy bills.

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Coun Read said: “We called on the chancellor last month to give us a fair deal – to put council services on a fair footing, bridge the gap in funding for survivors of sexual violence, back flood defence plans, and critically to extend the Household Support Fund. And he has done none of those things.

“As demand for foodbanks in our borough has trebled, we’ve been determined to get help to those who need it directly.

“There is still time for the Tories to change course but we need them to do that urgently.”

A DWP spokesperson said:“While no further decisions have been taken on the HSF, we continue to keep all of our existing programmes under review in the usual way.”

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Barnardos and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation were two of eight charities that released a joint statement calling for the support to continue.

They said they were ‘“disappointed” that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not announce that the fund would be extended in his Autumn Statement.