Household Support Fund

A Household Support Fund grant of £1,130,648 has been confirmed for Reading borough to provide cost of living support to households in the most need; particularly those who may not be eligible for the other support government has recently made available.

The grant is funded by the Department of Work and Pensions and is to be utilised between 1 April 2024 and the 30 September 2024.

The amount of funding each local authority receives is decided by government depending on the level of need of residents in the area.

Local authorities can use the funding allocated to them in the way that will most suit the needs of residents. In Reading, funding is allocated as follows:

  1. The provision of direct financial support to low-income households with children in receipt of pupil premium/free school meals, and care leavers.
  2. An application-based scheme that allows residents to apply for support if they are struggling financially.
  3. support to low-income households affected by the cost-of-living, along with specific funding to VCS organisations who provide residents from low-income households with support for school uniforms.
  4.  In line with government guidance, a small proportion of the funding is being used to cover administration costs.

How will residents receive support through the Household Support Fund?

Households with pupil premium/free school meal children eligible for direct support will have received a £125 voucher sent to their homes by the Post Office. The vouchers will be posted in July 2024.  Recipients will have until 31 August 2024 to cash the voucher.  Vouchers are not able to be cashed after the date has passed.

Care Levers will also be receiving a voucher payment of £125.  For most Care Leavers this voucher will be sent to them by the Post Office, with some others being provided directly by the Leaving Care Team.

If you have any questions about these vouchers, please contact the Council’s HSF helpline: 0118 9373797 or email: Household.Support@reading.gov.uk

The Council’s HSF helpline is available between 10am to 12pm, and 2pm to 4pm, Monday to Friday.

The following residents will be getting payments sent directly to them as part of the Household Support Fund.

WhoWhatWhenHow
Households with children in receipt of pupil premium/free school mealsOne payment of £125First payment in July 2024.Post Office voucher
Care leaversOne payment of £125First payment in July 2024.Post Office voucher

Applying for financial support from the Household Support Fund

Before starting an application, please read the type of support available and the eligibility criteria. You will need the following information when you apply:

  • Your Council Tax account number (starts with a 6 and can be found on your Council Tax bill)
  • National Insurance number for you and your partner (where applicable)
  • Details of income/benefits for you and your partner (where applicable)
  • Details of essential expenditure for you and your partner (where applicable)
  • Details of any savings you and your partner have (where applicable)

Type of financial support

A payment of £125 per household is available from the Household Support Fund. 

This process does not offer immediate or emergency financial support to residents.  Each application will need to be processed, and the time to complete this will depend on the volume of applications received.

The payment to eligible households will be paid directly into their bank accounts.  For the expected small number of residents who don’t have bank accounts, alternative payment arrangements will be made.

Households will be able to apply for HSF4 support once between May 2024 and September 2024.

Eligibility

The discretionary application-based element of HSF is focused on supporting Reading residents on low incomes and those who are struggling to meet the rising cost of living.

Households in receipt of means tested benefits or other related state benefits (such as a Personal Independence Payment) are automatically assumed to have a low income.

For residents who aren’t in receipt of any income-based or other state benefits but have specific circumstances that have negatively impacted their overall cost of living (such as an unexpected or increased expenditure), a high-level income, expenditure and savings assessment will be conducted within the application. Applicants with savings above £2000 will not be eligible for a discretionary payment.

In this high-level assessment, essential expenditure will include rent/mortgage, Council Tax, utility bills, groceries, transport, clothing, and childcare costs.  Residents will also need to provide information about their income and expenditure, and their current specific circumstances that means they are requesting support with their cost of living. 

Support will be prioritised to households who fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Residents above state pension age
  • Carers
  • Care Leavers
  • People with Disabilities
  • Families with children receiving Pupil Premium
  • People Living Alone 
  • Residents with unsecure employment 
  • Large Households 
  • People with energy inefficient homes 
  • Households with prepayment energy meters 
  • Residents in private rented accommodation 
  • Victims of crime 
  • Veterans
  • Residents with English as a second language 
  • Residents with ethnically diverse heritage 

For monitoring purposes, applicants will also be asked if they are also in receipt of any of the other cost-of-living support provided by the Government, and what they will be using the financial support for from the following categories:

  • Food,
  • Energy & water
  • Essentials linked to energy and water
  • Wider essentials,
  • Housing costs,
  • Other

Applicants requiring support with housing costs will be directed to other forms of available support.  The government regulations for the Household Support Fund state that whilst the grant can be used to support housing costs, where eligible, ongoing housing support for rent must be provided through the housing cost element of UC and HB. In addition, eligibility for Direct Housing Payments must first be considered before housing support is offered through Household Support Fund.

Application process and information needed

A contact line for applicants is available between 10am and 12pm and 2pm to 4pm Monday-Friday.

The application for support from the Household Support Fund is made via the online form above.  This form can be completed by the resident or by someone else (such as a local advice organisation), if needed.

Proof of residency will be confirmed via residents providing their Council Tax Reference Number.  Additional provision will be made for residents who are not able to provide this information.

Decision and appeals

The decision to award or reject will be made by council officers administering the scheme.  Their decision will be final and there will be no right to appeal.

Other sources of support

If you would like further cost-of-living advice or support, please look our the Money Matters advice pages.

There are also several government funded schemes to help with the cost of living – you can find further details on benefits and financial support on the GOV.UK website.

Further information

If you have any queries about the Household Support Fund, please first check our Frequently Asked Questions or get in touch by emailing us at household.support@reading.gov.uk.

How the Household Support Fund has helped you.

Reading Borough Council would like to know how the support provided by the Household Support Fund has helped you.  To help us understand this, you may be contacted to ask you about this using the contact details we have for you.

Household Support Fund – background information

More information on the support provided by the government to residents struggling with the rising cost of living can be found in the government’s cost of living support page.

Previous Household Support Fund rounds

The Household Support Fund (HSF) started in October 2021 and has since been extended several times. The HSF provides support to households who would otherwise struggle to buy food, pay essential utility bills, or meet other essential living costs or housing costs. To date there have been three rounds of HSF funding each lasting for six months, and the current round of funding which is for twelve months.

The first round of HSF funding in Reading provided food vouchers to families who needed extra support over school holidays, as well as energy vouchers for targeted residents. Further funding was allocated to support Reading residents with rising food costs, as well as funding for Reading Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) organisations.

The second funding round focused on the rising cost of energy for residents with a targeted Energy Voucher scheme for those in need, especially older people, and families.

For the third round of funding, the council combined the energy and food voucher schemes into one Cost-of-Living voucher for those who required support. This approach provided added flexibility to residents who could choose how to use the funds according to their individual needs. A Cost-of-Living payment was also introduced for Reading households in receipt of Housing Benefit.

Specific details of what support was provided to Reading residents in previous Household Support Fund rounds can be found below:

Household Support Fund 1

Council decisions

DECISION BOOK – ISSUE 641 – 19 OCTOBER 2021

DECISION BOOK – ISSUE 646 – 21 DECEMBER 2021

DECISION BOOK – ISSUE 655 – 7 APRIL 2022

Government returns

RBC HSF1 Return

Household Support Fund 2

Council decisions

DECISION BOOK – ISSUE 658 – 18 MAY 2022DECISION BOOK – ISSUE 662 – 13 OCTOBER 2022

Government returns

RBC HSF2 Return

Household Support Fund 3

Council decisions

DECISION BOOK – ISSUE 663 – 18 OCTOBER 2022

Government returns

RBC HSF3 Return

Household Support Fund 4

Council decisions

Decision – Household Support Fund 4 – Reading Borough Council

240226 Household Support Fund 4 Updated Allocation

Government returns

RBC HSF4 Return

Frequently asked questions

What is the Household Support Fund?

The Household Support Fund is money provided to local authorities by the government to help residents with essential costs who are struggling to meet the current cost of living.

A Household Support Fund (HSF) grant of £2,261,298 has been confirmed for Reading borough to provide cost of living support between 1 April 2023 and the 31 March 2024.

The grant is provided to help families and vulnerable individuals who struggle to pay for basic living costs, such as:

  • energy and water
  • food
  • essentials linked to energy and water
  • wider essentials – such as clothing
  • housing costs

Who the Household Support Fund is for?

Funding is aimed at anyone who is vulnerable or cannot pay for essentials. You do not have to be getting benefits to get help from your local council.  If you get benefits, they will not be affected if you get a payment from a Household Support Fund scheme.

Why does each local council use their Household Support Fund grant differently?

Whilst there are some broad rules that each local council that receives a Household Support Fund grant from the government must follow, there is also enough flexibility to allow each area to tailor how they use the grant to address the specific cost of living issues in their area.

Also, each local authority does not get the same amount of grant funding.  The amount of grant funding is decided by the government and is either higher or lower depending on the government’s assessment of need for each local authority.

Within Berkshire, here is the amount of Household Support Fund grant each local council receives for the year 2024:

Reading Borough Council                                               £1,139,648
Slough Borough Council                                                £1,177,691
West Berkshire Borough Council                                   £694,849
Wokingham Borough Council                                         £525,573
Bracknell Forest Borough Council                                 £555,468
Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead                   £587,905

How is Reading Borough Council using its Household Support Fund grant?

The utilisation of the HSF grant in Reading over the coming year is focused on two key elements:

  1. Automatic support through an allocation scheme to low-income households with children in receipt of Pupil Premium/Free School Meals and Care Leavers.
  2. An application-based scheme that is agile and flexible enough to meet the specific needs of local people who are in desperate need of cost-of-living support.  There are a wide range of people who need such support, but that are difficult to specifically identify, and therefore provide a defined funding allocation.
  3. Direct funding to local groups providing support low-income households affected by the cost-of-living, along with specific funding to VCS organisations who provide residents from low-income households with support for school uniforms.
  4. In line with government guidance, a small proportion of the funding is being used to cover administration costs.

Why do some people get money allocated to them and others don’t?

The simple answer to this is that the funding available within the Household Support Fund grant isn’t enough to help everyone in the borough in the way we would want to, and because of this we need to make choices about how the money is used.

Reading Borough Council wants to support families with children who may be struggling with the rising cost of living.  Therefore, we are issuing vouchers directly to families who qualify for pupil premium/free school meals and care leavers.

There are many local voluntary and community organisations within the borough who are providing support to low-income households every week.  Through our Public Health team we want to provide some more capacity to this support.

Finally, we know that people may be struggling with the current cost of living for many different reasons.  Therefore, we have our application scheme so that any resident can contact the council and ask for some financial support.  The amount of funding available for the application scheme is limited, and again we may not be able to help everyone that needs it, but it does give us a lot of flexibility to help residents with a broad range of different personal circumstances.

Who will be getting payments sent to them as part of the Reading Household Support Fund?

The following residents will be getting payments sent directly to them as part of the Household Support Fund.

WhoWhatWhenHow
Households with children in receipt of pupil premium/free school mealsOne payment of £125First payment in July 2024.Post Office voucher
Care leaversOne payment of £125First payment in July 2024.Post Office voucher

What if I don’t receive a voucher?

If you think that you are eligible to receive a voucher as a household with a child or children in receipt of pupil premium/free school meals, but you have not received a voucher, please wait until after 31st July 2024 to contact the council about this.

If you think that you are eligible to receive a voucher as a household with a care leaver, but you have not received a voucher, please wait until after 31st July 2024 to contact the council about this.

How long do I have to cash my voucher?

For households receiving a voucher issued July 2024, you have until 31 August 2024 to cash this.  You won’t be able to cash this voucher after this date.

How can other residents get financial help from Household Support Fund?

An application scheme is available to enable Reading residents to apply for financial support. 

Are there other sources of funding or support that I can access?

Details of all the cost of living support that is available within the borough can be on our Money Matters advice pages.

There are also several government funded schemes to help with the cost of living – you can find further details on benefits and financial support on the GOV.UK website.

Last updated on 10/05/2024