Department For Work And Pensions Pushing For Cost Of Living Support Extension
The Department for Work and Pensions is pushing the Treasury for an extension of the Household Support Fund in the budget, PoliticsHome understands.
Mims Davies, Tory MP and minister of state for disabled people, health and work is understood to be among figures at the DWP who have asked the Treasury for the extension of the fund which organisations supporting people struggling with the cost of living say is a "lifeline".
The push for the extension of the funds comes after chancellor Jeremy Hunt was criticised by chair of the work and pensions committee Stephen Timms in November for providing an "untruthful answer" over the future of the fund during a debate on the autumn statement.
During the debate, Hunt told Timms the Household Support Fund would continue into 2024, but a Treasury source later told PoliticsHome that only referred to the scheme running until March and that no formal decision about extending the fund beyond spring had been made.
"If ministers decide to extend that fund beyond April 2024, they’ll announce in the usual way," a Treasury source told PoliticsHome at the time.
The Household Support Fund was introduced in September 2021 to help vulnerable households during the winter struggling with rising energy bills and the rising cost of living.
The fund, worth more than £2.5bn and given to councils, is on a needs based arrangement through small payments to those struggling to afford essentials like energy bills and food.
It has been extended at several fiscal events since its introduction due to the bleak outlook for household finances, however the government's failure to announce an extension in the autumn statement in November triggered alarm among campaigners.
Figures working in the poverty-support sector say the Household Support Fund is a critical safety net that catches people when there is nothing else to protect them – with councils already struggling to meet demands for their services.
Rory Weal, senior policy and public affairs manager at leading foodbank charity the Trussell Trust, told PoliticsHome the Household Support Fund was "a lifeline for families facing hunger and hardship, helping with unexpected costs and preventing people spiralling deeper into poverty".
"We are very concerned about the prospect of funding coming to an end this spring," said Weal.
"Hardship remains unacceptably high, with food banks in the Trussell Trust network providing 1.5mil food parcels in just 6 months between April to September 2023.
"It is unsustainable to expect food banks to keep meeting this rising demand, that’s why we are calling in the government to extend funding for the Household Support Fund for at least a year, and longer term giving local government certainty so it can plan to tackle need for food banks effectively."
The DWP declined to comment.
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