More than £2 million allocated for vulnerable families across West Northamptonshire as further support agreed

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Vulnerable families across West Northamptonshire will see a further £2.4 million of funding handed out as lifeline support to households struggling with the cost of living.

The fifth instalment of the household support fund (HSF) will be rolled out across the county, ending in September of this year. The extended funding comes after the government’s spring budget announcement following pressure from councils, charities and MPs.

The money is used by councils to distribute food, energy and water bill vouchers to cover essential living costs. Anyone can apply for the fund via their council, but the expectation is that payments should be used to support the households with the highest needs.

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Councillor Sally Beardsworth (Lib Dems) said: “What happens next? It’s great we’ve got the money for the people that desperately need it but we’ve got to make some provision. We can’t just drop them off the edge of the cliff and expect them to cope.

One Angel Square, Northampton, headquarters of West Northamptonshire Council. (Image: Nadia Lincoln LDRS)One Angel Square, Northampton, headquarters of West Northamptonshire Council. (Image: Nadia Lincoln LDRS)
One Angel Square, Northampton, headquarters of West Northamptonshire Council. (Image: Nadia Lincoln LDRS)

“The cost of living isn’t going down. We have a real problem on our hands because if you’ve got 12,000 families that need the support now, what’s going to happen to those families when the support finishes?

“We’ll end up with homelessness, people in temporary accommodation, children coming into care. That’s what we’re faced with.”

Councillor Emma Roberts (Labour) added: “I’d like to see what we’re going to do to fill the gap when [the government] do say stop.

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“Throwing bits and then expecting us to thank them and not giving us anything on a long-term basis, I think, is taking the mickey out of our residents and is taking the mickey out of you as cabinet members because you have to sit here and justify it and it is unjustifiable.”

The biggest expenditure in previous years has been for families eligible for free school meals who are reliant on financial support over school holidays. This has been reflected in the proposed spending plans for the next six months, directing £1.2 million to school holiday food vouchers alone.

The report states that an estimated 12,700 eligible families will be issued food vouchers worth £15 a week for children during summer holidays. A further £30 per child will also be awarded to help purchase school essentials such as uniforms.

Other vouchers for food or wider essentials for households without children can be accessed through grant scheme applications and the trusted referrer scheme.

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According to WNC, all awards and funding will be complemented by wrap-around support schemes with the view to help transition households from crisis support to more sustainable support.

Councillor Matt Golby, cabinet member for adult care, public health & regulatory services, said: “I’m not going to criticise the government, in fact, I’ll thank them and graciously accept this money, but also raise the point and say we do need some sort of sustainability.

“That challenge is still there and we will continue to lobby for the next iteration of the household support fund. As a council we’ve got a lot of things in place to help families and we’ll continue to do that.”

Following the cabinet’s approval on May 7, work will commence with working closely with community partners for distribution of the funds.