How Preston, Chorley, South Ribble, Wyre and Fylde residents can get help with household bills if they are struggling this winter

Central Lancashire residents facing a financial struggle this winter are being invited to apply for help from a scheme set up to provide a safety net for those in need.

By Paul Faulkner
Monday, 20th December 2021, 11:11 am
Updated Monday, 20th December 2021, 12:42 pm

The Household Support Fund was introduced by the government in the wake of its decision to end the £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit, which was brought in as a temporary measure at the onset of the pandemic and ran until October.

All of Lancashire’s district councils are beginning to distribute their shares of the cash pot after receiving allocations from Lancashire County Council, which is overseeing the fund in much of the region.

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Support is available for those struggling to make ends meet

Preston City Council has received the largest amount in the Lancashire County Council area - with £420,000 to hand out - and the city's scheme is open for applications.

Wyre and Fylde councils have also started to consider applications, while the local authorities in Chorley and South Ribble are finalising their own initiatives, which will involve working with the voluntary sector to ensure that the money reaches those most in need.

Money can be provided to cover the cost of a variety of essential household expenses, including heating, water and food bills, as well as appliances such as fridges and cookers. However, individual councils will set their own priorities for how the fund is spent in their area and assess claims on a case-by-case basis.

Preston City Council will consider applications for all eligible needs, although due to the number of claims already made, the authority is advising that any new ones may not be considered until early January.

At a recent meeting of Preston’s full council, cabinet member for social justice Nweeda Khan said that the scheme aims “to support people who are being financially impacted during the Covid economic recovery stage”.

Although the Household Support Fund is not able to be used for debt relief, deputy council leader Martyn Rawlinson told members that the city authority had separate arrangements to help people “who can’t pay their bills”.

“They just need to come and talk to us - we have advice services and we are targeting people who appear to be getting into debt, contacting them and doing everything we can to help them pay the bills and manage better if they are struggling,” he added.

The authority has also agreed to renew its council tax support system for the next financial year, providing a means-tested reduction in bills for the lowest income households.

Fylde Council is open to applications for all eligible reasons and the authority's leader Karen Buckley has urged people who may be "hesitant to access the service" to get in touch.

Wyre Council is focusing on helping residents who are struggling with gas and electricity bills, while Ribble Valley Borough Council s distributing its share of the fund in the form of digital supermarket vouchers to residents in receipt of local council tax support and who have a dependent child living at home. The authority is writing to every resident entitled to one of the vouchers.

As the Lancashire Post revealed last month, County Hall has been awarded £9.6m from the fund and has decided to pass on £3m to district councils for them to hand out as they see fit.

A further £3m will be spent on vouchers for use by the families of children on free school meals during forthcoming holiday periods, while allocation of the £3.6m remaining balance will be decided by the county council’s household support fund working group.

As standalone councils, Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen councils have received their allocations directly from the government of £1.7m and £1.6m respectively.

All of the authorities making payments from the fund will be subject to criteria laid down by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) - including that at least half of the overall funding received must be used to support vulnerable households with children and that the money must be distributed to those who will benefit from it by 31st March, 2022.

Lancashire County Council leader Phillipa Williamson said of the cash being made available: "Over the past year a lot of work has been done to ensure the help goes to those who really need it and we know this money has helped make a difference to thousands of people at what has been a difficult time.

"The fund aims to help families, care leavers, older looked after children and vulnerable households without children, all of whom may be struggling to make ends meet.

"More than £3million has been distributed to families who qualify for free school meals to ensure meals vouchers are available over the holidays, including this Christmas, while a further £3million has been handed out by borough and district councils to those in need," County Cllr Williamson added.

HOW TO APPLY

Here is how residents can apply for help from the Household Support Fund in each part of Central Lancashire:

Preston

Visit: Household Support Fund - Preston City Council or those without internet access can call 01772 906363.

Chorley and South Ribble

Chorley and South Ribble Councils are currently developing its plans for delivering the Household Support Fund, including by working with the voluntary sector to ensure that the money reaches those most in need.

Fylde

Visit: Household Support Grant – How can we help? (fylde.gov.uk)Fylde Council leader Karen Buckley said of the fund: “We are delighted to be able to facilitate the payment of these grants to those most in need during the long winter months.

“There are many people who struggle to make ends meet and these payments are essential in them being able to feed their families and stay warm this winter. If you are unsure if you are eligible, please get in touch with our friendly team who will be able to advise you of the monies available, as well as if and how you can access it.”

“The funding is available until 31 March 2022 and we hope to support as many vulnerable people as we can this winter. We understand some may well be hesitant to access the service however we are still here to help so please get in touch.”

Ribble Valley

Ribble Valley Borough Council is distributing the Household Support Fund in the form of digital supermarket vouchers to residents in receipt of local council tax support and who have a dependent child living at home. The authority is writing to every resident entitled to one of the vouchers.

West Lancashire

Wyre

DIVIDING UP THE CASH

This is how much each council in Lancashire has available to spend under the Household Support Fund:

Blackburn with Darwen - £1.6m

Blackpool - £1.7m

Burnley - £300,000

Chorley - £240,000

Fylde - £150,000

Hyndburn - £270,000

Lancaster - £360,000

Lancashire County Council - £6.6m (excludes the £3m that the authority has distributed to district authorities elsewhere in this list)

Pendle - £270,000

Preston - £420,000

Ribble Valley - £90,000

Rossendale - £180,000

South Ribble - £210,000

West Lancashire - £240,000

Wyre - £270,000