On 5 February the Norfolk Community Advice Network and its steering group wrote to the government, calling for at least a one-year extension to the Household Support Fund.
Dear Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Chancellor of the Exchequer
Supporting people in financial hardship in Norfolk through the Household Support Fund.
We are writing as a network of advice providers and voluntary sector organisations supporting people across Norfolk. We are concerned that there has not yet been a government announcement committing to the continuation of discretionary support for people in crisis through the Household Support Fund.
Since being introduced in October 2021, Norfolk County Council has received funding of £33.5m to provide much-needed support for vulnerable families across the county. This funding has been a lifeline for people facing hardship, hunger, crisis and unexpected costs.
As organisations who provide advice on issues as wide-ranging as debt, benefits, housing, immigration and family law, as well as working in partnership with those providing material support including food, we have worked with Norfolk County Council and the district councils to use this money to support those who need it most. This has included distributing one-off vouchers for people who cannot afford to eat or top up their energy meters, and using the funding to provide advice on issues including benefits, debt and housing.
We are worried that if this scheme comes to an end, it will leave a gap in support for constituents in crisis. More families will fall into arrears on Council Tax, rent and utility bills, at risk of losing their homes or struggling with mental and physical health. With local authority budgets under considerable pressure and the cost of essential items significantly higher than it was when the scheme was launched, we believe an extension of this support is vital.
We were encouraged to hear cross-party support for the Household Support Fund during the Westminster Hall debate on its future on 31 January. In addition we welcomed the remarks from the Minister for Employment, acknowledging that the funds have been used to provide discretionary, targeted support for people in crisis. With just seven weeks until the fund comes to an end, we urge the government to make a firm commitment to the future of this vital support.
We would be delighted to meet with you to discuss the need for extending the Household Support Fund for at least another year, and ensuring that discretionary crisis support can continue in Norfolk.
Lesley Burdett, Strategic Lead, Shelter Norfolk
Ann Donkin, Chief Executive, Age UK Norfolk
David Powles, CEO, Norfolk Community Law Service
Amy Griffiths, CEO, Citizens Advice Diss, Thetford and District
Mark Hitchcock, CEO, Norfolk Citizens Advice
Béatrice Humarau, Executive Coordinator, The Bridge Plus+
Dan Mobbs, Chief Executive, MAP
Ben Reed, CEO, Equal Lives
Ben Scarlett, Director, Norfolk Community Advice Network
Dan Skipper, CEO, Age UK Norwich