FAMILIES across the country can claim much-needed cash towards their food shopping and energy bills.
The government’s £500million Household Support Fund has made extra money available to low-income families.
Households struggling through the winter months might be able to claim vouchers from their local authority to help fund key winter essentials.
It comes as thousands of families’ finances are hampered by the cost of living crisis.
High and rising inflation has led the prices of crucial supermarket staples to soar.
The government has dished out £500million to local councils across the country, which they are tasked with distributing to their residents.
But the availability of grant money and how to apply for it depends on where you live.
Each council decides what help to offer and who is able to claim it .
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If you’re not sure which is your local authority, find out via the government’s website.
How much cash is available – and how do I claim it?
Warrington Borough Council is offering £30 vouchers to families feeling the pinch this winter.
If you’re a Warrington resident in receipt of housing benefit or council tax support, your household is entitled to one £30 voucher.
And households with children who are eligible for free school meals can claim a £30 voucher per child.
The money is available via bank transfer or cheque, which you can specify during your application.
Applying is easy and essential because the money won’t come in automatically, even if you’re eligible.
Warrington sent its first payments in October, and a second set of cash transfers is set to be sent out over the next few weeks.
The council said all previous recipients of the fund have been contacted about their next payment.
When is the deadline for applications?
The deadline for applying for Warrington’s vouchers is March 31 – the same end date for the scheme as most councils in England.
However, it’s best to apply sooner rather than later as help is only available until the allocated money runs out.
Bear in mind that some councils have earlier deadlines – for example, Hertfordshire households must apply by February 28.
Warrington councillor Sarah Hall said: “Winter can be a time of financial struggle for many people, but especially due to the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and the soaring cost of living.
“This fund is available to help families in need in Warrington and can help to alleviate some of the burden of increased bills over the winter period.”
Apply for Warrington’s scheme here.
How does the Household Support Fund work?
English councils have been given £421million in additional spending from the Department of Work and Pensions to help struggling households in their area.
Each council decides for itself how funds are dished out and who is eligible in its area.
Some require you to apply for help, while others will make payments automatically to eligible households.
In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, devolved administrations are tasked with handing out the allotted funding.
The Scottish Government has been given £41million, while the Welsh Government was handed £25million and the Northern Ireland Executive received £14million, in line with the Barnett formula.
What if I’m struggling but don’t qualify for this scheme?
If there is no Household Support Fund help available to you in your area, there are other schemes that might be able to help.
Recipients of the welfare assistance scheme can claim up to £1,000 in free cash and vouchers toward their food, furniture and utility costs.
You might also be able to get your council tax bill slashed or even wiped if you’re struggling to pay.
And if you’re struggling to pay rent, you could apply for a discretionary housing payment.
If you want to focus on making sure your energy bills are as low as they can be this winter, read the top tips from this energy expert.