Northumberland handed £2.5m to support struggling families this winter

Struggling families will be able to get cash for sanitary products, warm clothing and boiler repairs this winter, as well as help with utility bills.

By James Harrison
Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 2:24 pm
Northumberland County Council.
Northumberland County Council.

County bosses have been handed almost £2.5m to help families with food, fuel and heating bills this winter.

Northumberland’s portion of the Household Support Fund has been delivered with an instruction from ministers to find those most in need of the extra cash.

And a change to rules from previous years means more of the money can be spent on other key needs, including sanitary products, warm clothing and boiler repairs.

“This allocation of £2.48m from the Government is the latest in a series of grant funding that we’ve had since the beginning of Covid,” said Maureen Taylor, interim executive director of communities and business development at Northumberland County Council (NCC).

“A high proportion of this fund will cover off the free school meal allowance [but] it’s also aimed at those who are not in receipt of benefits, so it gives us that discretion.

“We know that families and individuals are facing some difficulties as we come into winter, to support them with their fuel and food and heating bills. so it’s a very welcome grant.”

The Government has set aside £500m to fund similar schemes across the UK, with the latest grants running to March 31.

A report for the county council added the cash was not intended to “replace“ previous handouts from the Covid furlough scheme or the Universal Credit uplift, which many critics argue should be reinstated.

While previously the 80% of the scheme had to be dedicated to supporting households with children, that has now been reduced to 50%.

Former rules also stated that 80% of the cash had to be ring-fenced for “food, energy and water bills for household purposes”.

But this has now been reduced to 50%, meaning more money will be available to help households with other essentials, such as sanitary products, warm clothing, soap, blankets, boiler repairs or replacing fridges, ovens and other white goods.

Speaking to NCC’s cabinet, Ms Taylor added support would be open to anyone found to be in need and not limited to those already claiming benefits.

She said: “We don’t differentiate, we just say if you need any support, come forward.”