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Friday, February 23, 2024
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Council Leader calls on Chancellor to extend vital household lifeline

The Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, Councillor Shaun Davies, has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for Household Support Funding, which helps to support some of the most financially vulnerable children and pensioners in the borough, to be extended.

Councillor Shaun Davies, leader of Telford & Wrekin Council
Councillor Shaun Davies, leader of Telford & Wrekin Council

The Household Support Fund was introduced in 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic to provide local authorities with additional funding for them to use at their discretion to support local families. This funding was extended during the cost of living crisis, but the Government has not confirmed whether it will be continued after March 2024.

In 2023, the funding meant £3m of extra support for families and pensioners in Telford and Wrekin, which was used to provide supermarket vouchers to help with food costs over school holidays for almost 10,000 children who would normally receive a free school meal, to support over 3,500 older residents who receive pension support, and to provide discretionary support to people facing exceptional financial hardship.

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With the future of this funding uncertain, despite many families depending on this extra support, Councillor Shaun Davies, Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council has today written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, calling for the Household Support Fund to be extended as part of the March Budget announcements.

You can read the full letter below:

09 February 2024

Dear Chancellor,

Since the Covid-19 pandemic and throughout the cost-of-living crisis, the Household Support Fund has been an essential lifeline for many of the most financially vulnerable children and pension-age residents around the country.

In the last twelve months, Telford & Wrekin Council received £3m in funding, which we have used to provide supermarket vouchers to help with food costs during school holidays for almost 10,000 children who would normally receive a free school meal. Over the Christmas holidays, one family got in touch to say “the holiday voucher scheme is an absolute godsend and helps out so much, it really is a lifesaver and an amazing scheme which I must say a massive thank you for. I now have the supermarket voucher saved to my phone and will be going later to get my children and myself some food.”

We have also extended the same support to over 3,500 older residents who receive pension support. A significant number of our pension age customers have written or phoned us to express their gratitude and relief for the help that the voucher has provided. Many have told us that this has given them enough relief to prevent them having to decide between heating their homes or eating. After receiving vouchers for energy and food over the winter, one elderly resident told us how much this help meant: “I truly appreciate your help with food, gas and electric. I couldn’t see a way out and was starting to panic, I have had a few nights of no sleep, so this means more to me than you know. I am so grateful to be looked after at my age.”

In addition, the Household Support Fund has meant we can support others facing exceptional financial hardship through our discretionary support scheme, by providing energy and supermarket vouchers too. The difference this makes cannot be underestimated, as one older resident recently wrote: “I just need to write to say thank you for your amazing support team. Today I received a call from you, and I was so taken aback I haven’t stopped crying, the kindness is overwhelming. The young lady who called me has given me a food voucher. I am so overcome. I have worked hard all my life and now at 74 years old I am in poor health. So today when this act of kindness came it made me very, very grateful”.

Just last week, the Rt Hon Dr Therese Coffey MP commended Telford & Wrekin Council in Parliament for “thinking ahead” and taking a long-term approach to how we use HSF to support the most vulnerable households across our borough.

We know that many households depend on receiving this help and will find it hard to adjust if the Household Support Fund ends, as there is no alternative provision available. Our local food banks have had more demand this winter than ever, and we have no other discretionary funding available to support them further, or to allow us to increase the support we are directly providing to residents through our Crisis Assistance funding, which is also seeing unprecedented demand.

What’s more, the removal of the Household Support Fund is likely to place additional pressure on other council services, such as mental health and social care for adults and children, which are already under severe financial strain.

There is clearly cross-party support for this vital lifeline to continue, both inside Westminster and across the nation.

I therefore I urge you to reconsider ending the Household Support Fund and ask that it be extended, as part of your Budget announcements on 6 March.

Yours faithfully

Cllr Shaun Davies

Leader, Telford & Wrekin Council

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