Vital schemes supporting people in Sefton during the ongoing national cost-of-living crisis could all disappear if the Government presses ahead with its plan to cut the Household Support Fund, Sefton Council Cabinet member Cllr Trish Hardy has warned.
These include Sefton’s network of Warm and Welcome Spaces, school holiday food vouchers and winter and summer clothing schemes.
Cllr Hardy, who is Cabinet member for Communities and Housing said:
“Just recently, Citizens Advice have warned that over two million people across the UK will have their gas and electricity cut off this winter because they cannot afford to top up prepayment meters.
“Schemes like Sefton’s network of Warm and Welcome Spaces, holiday food vouchers for children and young people who receive free school meals, and the Winter Clothing programme are just the kind of initiatives designed to people like this who are struggling to stay afloat.
“Yet if the Government presses ahead with plans announced in its Autumn statement, we will be forced to end them all on 31st March.”
Originally set up to help vulnerable households meet daily needs such as food, clothing, and utilities, the Household Support Fund originally covered a period from October 2021 to March 2022. It has since been extended twice but in his 2023 Autumn Statement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced it would end permanently in March 2024.
Cllr Hardy continued:
“When the Government cuts off the funding in two months’ time it will leave a massive hole in the support and services that Sefton and councils across the country have been able to provide those people worst affected by the cost-of-living crisis. Those households where people are afraid to turn the heating on, put food on the table or use the gas or electricity to cook that food.
“Across Sefton we work closely with the voluntary sector and a range of organisations to prove these services but there is simply no way that any of us can fill the funding gap that we’re facing.”
Since their introduction, over 24,900 visits have been made to Sefton’s network of around 40 Warm and Welcome Spaces where people can gather for free in a safe, warm place to connect with others and enjoy a hot drink and food. Each school holiday, food shopping vouchers worth £15 per child per week have been provided by Sefton Council to over 9,000 families eligible for free school meals. And since 2021, more than 2,200 residents have benefited from winter and summer clothing schemes, many of them given out to people attending Sefton’s Warm and Welcome spaces.
Cllr Hardy added:
“I would strongly urge the Government to think again before withdrawing this vital funding that is providing these lifelines for people across Sefton and the country.
“There are Warm Spaces open somewhere in Sefton every day of the week and Mr Hunt and his colleagues are welcome to come along any time to visit one to get an idea of the disastrous effects ending the funding that makes them possible would have.”
Details of where people in Sefton struggling with the national cost-of-living crisis, can find a wide range of advice and support, including a link to Seton’s Warm Spaces and information about free school means is at www.sefton.gov.uk/cost-of-living