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Call to extend a crucial fund

Published Thursday 22 February, 2024
Last updated on Monday 18 March, 2024

Swale Borough Council (SBC) is asking the Government to extend a scheme that has helped more than 30,000 vulnerable people in Swale.

The Household Support Fund (HSF) is set to end on 31 March, after being used by the council to support local people with emergency food parcels, fuel vouchers, housing costs and wider essentials.

The fund has helped provide around £1.5 million of support to local people from its start in October 2021 and has also helped the voluntary and community sector (VCS) to deliver vital support to local communities.

Cllr Tim Gibson, leader of the council, Cllr Angela Harrison, chair of the housing and health committee and Cllr Richard Palmer, chair of the communities committee, wrote to Gordon Henderson, MP and Helen Whately, MP to urge the government to keep the fund.

The council argue that if the fund is not extended residents will suffer from less emergency support such as food parcels and fuel vouchers, longer waiting times to access vital services and increased costs of some services that are currently funded by HSF such as hot meals.

If the funding ends the council expects there to be more safeguarding cases, greater demand on housing and homelessness services and more people not being able to pay their council tax.

The Voluntary and Community Sector could also be impacted; with possible centre closures due to lack of funding, being unable to meet the demand and having to turn people away, or needing to charge for services that are currently available through HSF.

Cllr Tim Gibson, leader of the council, said:

“We have seen more and more people coming to us and our voluntary sector for support as our community grapples with the cost-of-living crisis.

“And this fund has been integral to our ability to help the most vulnerable in our society, providing emergency food parcels, fuel vouchers and frontline support through charities within our borough.

“Many of the households who have accessed the fund have exhausted their options and are desperate and at serious risk of harm or escalating crisis.

“Without the household support fund these families, who are the most vulnerable in our community, will have very few options available to them and this is of great concern to us.

“The council is facing a budget gap of over £1.3 million, and while we will still do our best to help those in need, sadly we won’t be able to provide the level of support we have been if this fund ends.

“We have not received any news from the Government about the fund’s future, which is deeply concerning, so we are appealing to them for an urgent update.

“We have compiled a report that details the implications the fund ending will have, which we hope will illustrate to the Government how desperately our community needs the support we are offering through this fund.”

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