Government’s £500m support scheme failing Britain’s poorest households

Posted: May 16th 2022


The links between poverty and ill health are well rehearsed and this article reminds us of how significant the challenges of addressing it in the current economic climate are.

A key part of the government’s response to the cost of living crisis has not been available to applicants for months in some parts of the country after councils ran out of money, the Observer can reveal.

The government launched the £500m Household Support Fund (HSF) last autumn to help poorer households with essentials. Ministers have highlighted the HSF in response to accusations it isn’t doing enough to help people cope with soaring inflation. Just last week, work and pensions minister Chloe Smith repeatedly cited the HSF in an interview with Channel 4 News.

The funding was meant to last until 31 March, but figures sourced under the Freedom of Information Act show one in six English local authorities ran out of funding for applicants at least a month earlier, some as early as December.

The bureaucratic nature of the process also meant dozens of councils that still had funding rejected more than a quarter of all applications.

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Since the start of the year, we’ve seen record-breaking levels of demand for crisis support amid the cost of living squeeze. Nowhere near enough of the help from the government has been targeted at the low-income households who need it most.

“It’s concerning that this limited assistance meant certain councils had to close their schemes early. With only the same amount of money going in again this April, and cost of living pressures rising still further, this won’t be enough for those struggling.