Grant of £7m to help Hampshire families in need – but £176k spent on administering it

Hampshire County Council

A £7 million grant will be handed out to support Hampshire families in need, including food vouchers and fuel grants, as well as support for food banks and Citizens Advice – although £176,259 will be spent on administering the scheme.

The fund is intended to cover a wide range of low-income households in need, including families with children of all ages, pensioners, unpaid carers, care leavers, and disabled people who would otherwise struggle with energy, food, and water bills.

On March 6th, the government announced that the household support fund (HSF) would be extended for six months from April 1st to September 30th, 2024, with a further £500m national funding.

The grant confirmed that Hampshire County Council’s allocation was £7,124,127, to be spent during the six-month period.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) expects the grant to be used primarily to meet immediate needs and help those who are struggling to afford household essentials, including energy and water bills, food, and other necessities.

While “immediate needs” should be prioritised, for this round of funding, the guidance encourages councils to use the fund to provide support that has a long-term sustainable impact. That can include household items such as insulating a hot water tank, fitting draft excluders to a front door, or replacing energy-inefficient lightbulbs, which would reduce bills in the long term.

Hampshire County Council has decided that the £7 million allocation will support a wide range of people through different formats, such as food vouchers, fuel vouchers, support for Citizens Advice, food banks, and libraries continuing to offer chat about groups for elderly people, among others. 

Community pantries will continue to benefit, as up to £550,000 will be destined to continue supporting the network of community pantries, which provides accessible alternatives to free school meal vouchers.

Due to ongoing food poverty, the fund could be used to aid other organisations, such as food banks or local food partnerships, that aim to create sustainable solutions for food assistance. There are an estimated 80 food banks in Hampshire.

There are 25 fixed venue connect4communities pantries in Hampshire and 10 mobile larders, of which nine are based in the New Forest. There is a current membership of over 13,000 households which continues to increase.

The government grant will be spent as follows:

  • £1,835,527 will be distributed to district and borough councils across Hampshire to provide one £25 food voucher to households in receipt of council tax support and £40 voucher to households in receipt of housing benefit only.
  • £1,185,742 will be available for schools, colleges, and early years settings to support families they recognise as being in need. Support may be provided through a food voucher or for wider essentials such as warm clothing, white goods, and/or blankets.
  • A grant of £483,569 is made available to Citizens Advice to support the most vulnerable households. This includes £66,319 to administer this scheme, carry out eligibility and fraud checks, and provide debt relief support if applicable. This will support 2,800 households.
  • It is proposed that £720,000 be made available through grants for organisations who wish to support vulnerable residents county-wide or within their local area with food and fuel poverty and wish to apply for a community grant.
  • A grant of £57,155 to Hampshire Library Service will extend and develop its current community offer, including signposting to relevant services, chatting about groups for the elderly and infirm, and providing warm and welcome resources and sanitary products.
  • £4,300 is allocated to distribute one £100 food voucher to 43 families open to children’s social care teams whose children are educated other than at school to contribute to the cost-of-living pressures.
  • £48,400 is ringfenced to award food vouchers to the value of £100 to each Hampshire Foster Carer household with a child or children currently in placement.
  • £16,400 will be awarded to 164 families where a looked-after child is placed at home, and it will be provided in the form of one £100 food voucher per household.
  • Food vouchers for the value of £100 are awarded to 946 eligible special guardians or connected carers, where children are placed either on a temporary or permanent basis and who are currently receiving financial support, at a total cost of £94,600.
  • £18,000 is distributed to children’s social care district-based and out-of-hours teams across Hampshire so that financial assistance can be given at their discretion to vulnerable families.
  • £88,700 is awarded for individuals open to care leavers teams to receive two £50 food vouchers across the six months.
  • Food vouchers for a total value of £21,500 for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children aged 16 to 18 during the six months.
  • £56,200 is ringfenced to provide one £100 food voucher to families open to the disabled children’s team and £476,000 to provide direct fuel support to three to 8,000 adults open to social care, not in residential accommodation.
  • Funding will be provided to organisations that support unpaid carers and young carers in Hampshire up to £421,250, including £26,250 of administrative costs during the six months.
  • £525,525 is distributed to district and borough councils to support households with exceptional housing costs during the funding period. Winchester City Council’s allocation is £45,150.

In accordance with the grant guidance, £176,259 will be retained by the county council to meet the costs of administering the household support fund between April and September 2024.

The executive lead member for children’s services, Councillor Edward Heron, is set to approve the grants next Tuesday.