Barnardo's, alongside other leading charities in the UK, are calling on the Chancellor to commit to long-term funding for the Household Support Fund. Read our open letter below.
We are writing to you as a group of organisations concerned about the future of the Household Support Fund (HSF). The current funding is due to end in March 2024 and failing to extend the HSF beyond this point will leave a major gap in support which neither local government, nor the voluntary sector, will be able to fill.
This Autumn Statement, we are urging you to secure the future of the Household Support Fund by committing to a multi-year settlement of funding and a long-term strategy for local crisis support in England.
Since October 2021, the HSF has been an important lifeline for people facing hardship, hunger, and unexpected costs. The HSF has enabled councils to provide vital support suited to the needs of their communities, whether that’s through a cash payment so families can buy the essentials they need, advice and support to help people access the financial support they are entitled to, or through the direct provision of furniture and white goods.
This is why we have strongly welcomed the investment the UK Government has made in the HSF over the past two years. We take heart from the fact that the Government has taken on board feedback following earlier funding rounds and made real improvements, including increasing flexibility in the way the funding can be spent, to increasing the funding rounds from six to twelve months.
We are writing this letter a time of rising hardship and hunger across England, and record levels of need for food banks. When people are already living on a low-income, an unexpectedly large cost can have shattering consequences. New research from Barnardo’s has found that families are having to prioritise food and heating over replacing mouldy bedding or broken beds.
As organisations on the front-line, we have seen how the impact of these unexpected costs is magnified further when people are unable to turn to their council for support. All the evidence – from the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis - has pointed to the value of discretionary support available at the local level and designed in partnership with the communities it serves.
This week the Department for Work and Pensions is running ‘Household Support Fund Awareness Week’, promoting good practice, and aiming to reach people who may benefit from the HSF. However, without any further guarantees, next March most of this good practice is likely to be lost as councils will no longer have the funding to continue helping households who are struggling.
Now is not a time to step away from the progress that has been made.
Local government needs certainty and long-term decisions to do the best by their communities. Together, we are calling on you to commit to a multi-year settlement of funding for the Household Support Fund, alongside a new long-term strategy for local crisis support to safeguard this route to support for households in need right across the country.
Emma Revie, Chief Executive, The Trussell Trust
Claire Donovan, Head of Policy, End Furniture Poverty
Graham Witham, Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Poverty Action
Lynn Perry MBE, Chief Executive, Barnardo’s
Mark Russell, Chief Executive, The Children’s Society
Michele Deans, Interim Chair, North East Child Poverty Commission
Sabine Goodwin, Director, Independent Food Aid Network
Vikki Brownridge, Chief Executive, StepChange Debt Charity
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, CPAG
Thomas Lawson, Chief Executive, Turn2us
Gwen Hines, CEO, Save the Children UK
Duncan Shrubsole, Director of Policy, Communications and Research, Lloyds Bank Foundation for England & Wales
Notes to editors
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Last year Barnardo’s provided essential support to over 357,000 children, young people, parents and carers through more than 790 services. We provide vital support to the children and families who need us most, to help with a range of issues including mental health, child sexual abuse and children in care. We listen to children and young people and work to bring about positive change so that they can have a brighter future. Visit www.barnardos.org.uk to find out more.
About Barnardo's work on child poverty
No child should grow up in poverty.
Children deserve more than empty stomachs, sleepless nights, and cold homes. Yet sadly more than one in four children in the UK live in poverty. It's not fair.
We remain highly concerned about the impact of rising costs on children, young people and families. Our latest report 'No crib for bed' has found that bed poverty is part of a far deeper problem of entrenched child poverty in the UK. We are calling on the UK Government to take urgent action to address these deep-rooted issues.