Nearly £6 million is to be given to Newcastle City Council to support vulnerable households with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. The UK government has extended its Household Support Fund for another year (2023-24) after intense lobbying by the Local Government Association (LGA) and the consumer champion Martin Lewis.
According to a recent report by Newcastle Council (March 2023):
- 17% of city households are in fuel poverty;
- 42% of children are growing up in poverty;
- 23% of pensioners are estimated to be living in poverty;
- 19% of adults are estimated to be in problematic debt;
- 28% of residents are ‘economically inactive’, of which 14,900 are long-term sick
- 35,263 residents are claiming Universal Credit (January 2023)
In the last year Newcastle Council successfully distributed £5.79m of the Household Support Fund to vulnerable residents through holiday meals, energy support and direct hardship payments.
To date 2,507 people in receipt of Housing Benefit (who weren’t entitled to the full £650 cost-of-living payment) have been issued with a COL – top up element. These include pensioners who are not in receipt of Pension Credit or those on disability related benefits like DLA or PIP. Weekly Free School Meal vouchers worth £15-20 have been issued to 16,700 children across the city during the school holidays including half-terms.
Since January 2023 one-off £200 hardship payments have been given out through partnership agencies including Citizens Advice Newcastle and the West End Food bank whilst Discretionary Hardship Payments have helped 1790 households with £650k worth of support for rent.
Other schemes are being supported via the HSF. YHN, the social housing provider, have unveiled a ‘warm packs’ scheme. Tenants can apply for support to keep their homes warm or reduce energy costs through the purchase of energy efficient products like air fryers and draft excluders.
A Fuel Poverty Fund has been set up by the local authority with a £55k budget to provide help for low-income owner-occupiers to carry out emergency repairs to heating systems or insulation measures.
Protecting the most vulnerable from rising living costs is a key priority of the City Council and it is positive to see the fund extended for another year. As the LGA makes clear the Government need to make the Household Support Fund permanent to ensure it helps residents in the greatest need, and more importantly move the focus from short-term crisis support to investing in poverty prevention.