The Chancellor’s much advertised £150 council tax rebate isn’t materialising quickly for many people as councils across the land grapple with the practicalities of paying it out. If you need some help or support now, then you might be able to get some cash or vouchers from the Household Support Fund. But what is it and how does it work? Here’s an overview.
What is the Household Support Fund?
The Household Support Fund was created last year to provide help for people struggling with their bills or who might fall in a ‘vulnerable’ category. In all, 1 billion has been earmarked for distribution.
You apply for a grant from the fund from your local council. The money is provided on a discretionary basis, meaning the councils decide who gets what (and how). That means quite a bit of variance around the UK over who gets what.
You might find that you are offered vouchers instead of cash – presumably because councils can get a better deal block buying these from participating retailers.
Will the fund help me clear my bills?
Not necessarily. The way the funds are distributed means your council calls the shots about how the money is handed out – and payments aren’t likely to be huge. Many of the councils I’ve spoken to are talking about payments of up to £200, with mixtures of cash and vouchers offered in many cases.
The payments are designed to help those in need make a dent in key bills like food and energy.
Who qualifies for a payment?
Because the separate councils will be setting criteria depending on the needs within their own catchment areas, it’s a bit of a postcode lottery, but you start the process by going through the council website. Just type ‘Household Support Fund’ in to their search drive.
Because of this, it’s only possible to say who might qualify in very general terms. But as a starting point if you’re struggling to pay your bills now, classify as vulnerable or have kids and money is tight you may be able to claim.
What about my energy bill?
The scheme is on top of the energy rebate announced already by the Government. That gets you £200 off your bill in October. However, this is not something you can opt out of and you can’t ‘gift the money’ to someone more in need. Oh, and it’s a loan, so we’ll all pay it back at £50 a year for five years from April 2023.
What other help can I get with money difficulties?
Of course, for many people, this simply isn’t going to be enough. Bear in mind that all regulated businesses in the UK have an obligation to help you if you are struggling financially and should come up with plans to help you avoid debt or get some breathing space. Ask if they have an ombudsman or dispute resolution service if they don’t help you enough.
There are lots of great free organisations out there that can help you – though be wary of general searches online as many firms that charge you money pretend to be ‘official’ free services to lure you in.
Money Helper is a new, free service set up to make it quicker and easier to find the right help. It brings together three long-standing government-backed financial guidance providers: the Money Advice Service, the Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise. There’s loads of tips, help and yes, you can speak to people too.
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StepChange is the UK’s most comprehensive free debt advice service. They help you take control of your finances and your lives. Don’t pay for debt services when StepChange is free and for you.
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