£6.1 million earmarked to help Wirral residents through Cost of Living crunch

Residents who are struggling with the rising cost of living and need help with food and energy bills, as well as other essentials, are being urged to check out the support available through the latest round of the Household Support Fund.

Earlier this year the Government’s Department for Work & Pensions awarded Wirral almost £6.1 million under round 4 of the Household Support Fund – known as HSF4 – as part of an £842 million package for Councils across England.

The latest award means that Wirral has secured almost £15.25 million under the Household Support Fund since the scheme was launched in September 2021.

The Leader of Wirral Council, Councillor Paul Stuart, said, “Ongoing rises in the cost of living are affecting almost everyone and continuing to have a terrible impact on local people.

“Although this latest HSF funding is very welcome, it is not enough to meet every need so we have targeted much of it, including help with energy bills and food, at the people who need it most.

“We are also working with local charities, community groups, schools and faith groups to deliver this support using their excellent local knowledge to help people on the ground and who might otherwise go under-the-radar and miss out on the support available.

“I would urge anyone who is struggling, or knows of someone who is, to find out what help is available and get the support they need.”

The £6.01 million awarded under the latest phase must be spent by 31 March 2024 and will be used to provide the following support:

Financial Support with Fuel and with Fuel & Water Debt (£1,800,000) This scheme will allow 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, to apply for help in several ways:  – Those with pre-payment meters can request a fuel voucher (gas and electric) from national charity, Fuel bank Foundation, via their local delivery partners Citizens Advice Wirral  Involve Northwest  and Energy Projects Plus as well as via the Council’s Emergency Financial Support Scheme

– People struggling with fuel and water debt can request help to clear or reduce their debt from Citizens Advice Wirral  and Energy Projects Plus

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 from Energy Projects Plus  under their Crisis Support With Heating scheme.

Small Grants Programme (£1,300,000) Grants of up to £20,000 will enable community-based food and welfare support groups to provide food and essential items to those most in need in their local communities. Applications were invited for under a first round of bids earlier this summer. Information about the grants awarded is available on the Wirral View website

Organisations will be invited to apply for a second and final round of funding to deliver essential food over the winter period. This is expected to be launched in October 2023 and more information will be available on the Wirral Council and Wirral View websites shortly.

Early Years Essential Hampers & School Food Pantries (£1,300,000) Hampers of food and other essentials items are being provided during school holidays to eligible families with children. Other families with children under five who are struggling are encouraged to contact their nearest Children’s Centre to discuss applying.

Support for Vulnerable Families (£500,000) The cost-of-living crisis is affecting most young families and many struggling to afford the basics such as food, clothing, fuel bills and bus fares etc. Wirral Council’s Childrens Services, in partnership with community voluntary and faith organisations from across the borough, will provide small grants to families in need, along with support, advice and signposting to other help available.

Primary, secondary, special schools, care leavers and Sixth Form Colleges will be given a store of food items for children to take home and use over the winter period. The project builds on the success of previous HSF-funded schemes delivered in partnership with local charity Neo Community.

Emergency Support Fund (£200,000) This funding will allow the Council to enhance its existing Emergency Financial Support Scheme to help more people in crisis situations. More information, including how to apply, is available on the Wirral Council Website

School Food Pantries Fresh Food Provision (£186,000) Local schools with appropriate storage facilities will receive fresh produce from Neo Community to complement the dry and long-life items provided through the School Pantry project.

Crisis support with white goods (£160,000) Vulnerable residents who do not qualify under the Council’s Emergency Financial Support Scheme can apply for white goods, including washing machines, cookers and fridges, and other essential household items from North Birkenhead Development Trust (project is not restricted to Birkenhead) and St Vincent de Paul Society, Wirral. Applications should be submitted via local referral agencies such as Citizens Advice Wirral  and Involve Northwest

Out of School activities – Holiday Activities and Food Support (£150,000) The Household Support Fund will provide the food element of the holiday activity and food programme (HAF), which engages thousands of free school meal-eligible young people across the borough during the spring, summer and winter school holidays.

Housing Support Costs (£100,000) Housing costs can be supported in exceptional cases of genuine emergency where existing housing support schemes and Universal Credit cannot help. This scheme cannot provide housing support on an ongoing basis, support unsustainable tenancies, or to provide mortgage support. More information is available on the Wirral Council website

Quality of Life Support for Over 65s (£100,000) Around 800 older people in Wirral will benefit from this Age UK initiative, which will deliver a range of projects to enhance their quality of life for the over-65s. They will focus on nutrition, maintaining and increasing independence at home, avoiding hospital admission, preventing carer breakdown, and financial support for carers and vulnerable older people with essential items and bills. For more information contact Age UK Wirral

Care Leavers Food Pantry (£67,600) Funding will allow Neo Community to provide fresh food items to local care leavers to complement the existing pantry offering dry and long-life goods.

Heating & plumbing appliance repair/replacement (£46,000) Residents on a low income who are in urgent need of repairs or a replacements to their heating or plumbing systems or appliances can apply for help from Energy Projects Plus

Targeted Support (£30,000) A limited number of Wirral residents have been identified as a priority for support by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). All eligible individuals have been contacted directly.

More information about help available is available on the Wirral Council website at www.wirral.gov.uk/costofliving  or by calling 0151 606 2005 if you are unable to go online. To see other support that may be available to you, please visit the Government’s Cost of Living Hub

Information about food and other support available to residents is also posted on the Wirral Infobank website at www.wirralinfobank.co.uk

Image: Andrea Piacquadio

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