£3 million Household Support Fund set to help struggling residents this winter

Wirral Council has secured more than £3 million from the Government’s new £500 million Household Support Fund to help families and individuals who are struggling this winter.

Following consultation with community and voluntary sector partners and other key stakeholders, £3,049,345 of funding will be allocated to the projects to help vulnerable residents and people in crisis. (Details are listed below.)

Wirral Council’s assistant director for Neighbourhoods, Safety and Transport and Humanitarian Cell lead, Mark Camborne, said, “Huge efforts have been made to support our most vulnerable residents through the pandemic and this funding will allow the Council and its community and voluntary sector partners to continue that vital work over the winter. 

“Although tens of thousands of local people have been supported over the past 18 months, we know that some people are reluctant to seek help and continue to endure financial hardship and all its consequences. 

“I would therefore encourage anyone in genuine need and struggling to get the food, fuel and other things that are essential for their health and wellbeing, to look at what is available and get the help they need.”

Information about emergency support for Wirral’s most vulnerable people in a crisis situation is available on the Wirral Infobank website (www.wirralinfobank.co.uk ), the Wirral Council website or by calling the coronavirus helpline on 0151 666 5050 if you are unable to go online. The helpline can also advise on assistance that may be available from Age UK Wirral for anyone digitally excluded. 

The funding is the latest from the Department for Work and Pensions which has provided more than £3 million since December 2020 to support vulnerable residents under the COVID Winter Grant Scheme and COVID Local Support Grants.

The projects to be funded are as follows:

Small Grants Programme (£600,000) – Community-based food and welfare support groups, including many that have played a key role in the borough’s humanitarian efforts throughout the pandemic, can apply for up to £20,000 to help ensure that food and essential items are available to those most in need in their local communities over the winter months. Applications to Wirral Household Support Fund can be made via the Wirral Council website at www.wirral.gov.uk/household  until the deadline of 12 noon on Thursday 11 November 2021.

Financial Support with Welfare Needs (£500,000) – Wirral Council will continue to provide emergency support to help people in crisis situations and has extended the scope, contributing to towards necessary items and expenses such as essential food, shoes and clothing, furniture and household goods, white goods, fuel and utilities including phone and broadband bills, travel costs, veterinary bills, car repairs bills, and medical expenses. All applications are carefully considered against strict eligibility criteria and evidence of need. More information is available at www.wirral.gov.uk/welfaresupport

  • Financial Support with Fuel and with Fuel & Water Debt (£430,000) – Vulnerable residents who are unable to pay for the fuel they need to heat and power their homes or are struggling to deal with fuel and water debt can apply for help in several ways:
    • Those with pre-payment meters can request gas and electric vouchers from national charity, Fuelbank Foundation, via their local delivery partners Citizens Advice Wirral, Involve Northwest and Energy Projects Plus, including Wirral Council via its Financial Support Scheme.
    • Those who pay by direct debit can apply for help towards their fuel and water costs, which will be paid directly to their utility provider following an assessment and referral by Citizens Advice Wirral.
    • People struggling with fuel and water debt can request help to clear or reduce their debt from Citizens Advice Wirral and Energy Projects Plus. Clearing debt can enable households to switch energy suppliers and move to more affordable fuel tariffs, resulting in very positive financial and physical and mental health benefits.
    • People in crisis situations who are unable to repair or replace broken or obsolete heating and do not qualify for help under other programmes can apply to local charity Energy Projects Plus for help under the Crisis Support with heating scheme.

Emergency School Food Pantries (£310,000) – Birkenhead Sixth Form College, along with 34 primary and 12 secondary schools across Wirral, will each receive up to £6,500 worth of ambient food to provide a store of essential items for the children to take home. The project builds on the success of a similar scheme delivered in partnership with local charity Neo Community, which saw 112 pallet-loads of food delivered to 40 local schools at the start of this new school year.

Great Wirral Family Cook Off (£300,000) – Up to 4,000 families in all parts of the borough will receive food boxes containing the ingredients and step-by-step menu cards to create interesting and nutritious family meals together. The project builds on the success of the first Wirral Cook Off, which saw more than 17,000 hampers containing 86,925 meals, delivered to over 5,000 Wirral households last summer.

Early Years Food and Essential Hampers During School Holidays (£134,400) – Families who qualify for 2 Year Funding or Early Years Pupil Premium (the pre-cursors to free school meal eligibility at primary school) will receive hampers containing food and other essential items, which will be provided for the nursery/school holidays at Christmas 2021 and the February half-term in 2022. Other local families with children under 5 who may need the same support can contact their nearest Children’s Centre to discuss.

Financial Support with School Meal Debt (£100,000) – Accumulated school meal debt is a burden to many struggling families. Action has previously been taken to cancel school meal debt in 43 primary schools across the borough. This funding will enable debt to be cleared in the remaining primary schools and all of Wirral’s secondary schools.

Winter Coats and Uniforms for School (£80,000) – Schools will be supported to help struggling families with vital winter coats and uniforms, helping to improve the health and comfort of children as well as reducing the financial pressures on vulnerable families.

Crisis Support with White Goods (£45,000) – Funding will allow community-based partners, North Birkenhead Development Trust and St Vincent de Paul Society (Wirral), to continue providing white goods and other essential items to vulnerable households who do not qualify for the Council’s Financial Support with Welfare Needs Scheme.

Housing Support Costs (£40,000) – Wirral’s revenues and benefits service will allocate funding to support housing costs in exceptional cases of genuine emergency where existing housing support schemes cannot be used.

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service: Risk Reduction Items (£20,000) – Wirral will join other councils across the city region in an MFRS-led initiative to install a range of heating-related risk reduction items in the homes of vulnerable people across the borough.

A contingency fund has also been set aside to deal with any requests for additional funding due to strong demand for the projects outlined above. It will also be used to address any gaps or unforeseen needs that arise as we transition from the COVID emergency to a more normal way of life.

All projects must spend their allocation by 31 March 2022.

Image: cottonbro

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