Wigan Council leaders add their voice to Household Support Fund calls

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Finance, welfare and children’s services leaders from Wigan Council have joined the calls for an extension of the Household Support Fund (HSF).

Ahead of the spring budget, the cabinet members are backing the growing number of voices from across local government, community and charity sectors, urging central government to renew beyond next month.

Set against the backdrop of cuts to council budgets, the HSF has provided various forms of hardship payments, supporting thousands of residents in need.

In Wigan Borough, it has worked in conjunction with the Here For You welfare support campaign, helping the network of Warm Welcoming Spaces, food pantry vouchers and energy payments, among others.

Prominent charities and organisations such as The Children’s Society, Barnardo’s, The Trussell Trust and Joseph Rowntree Foundation have all urged central government to extend it for at least another year.

Councillor Nazia Rehman, cabinet member finance, resources and transformation, said: “We have consistently called for a long-term plan for local government finances so that councils can plan ahead to ensure vital services are maintained for our communities.

“The uncertainty over the Household Support Fund places even more pressure on town halls that are already setting their budgets in challenging circumstances.

“Extending the funding and committing to a multi-year settlement would be a step in the right direction.”

Over the past two years, from April 2022 to March 2024, the value of the HSF to Wigan Borough has been more than £14m.

Councillor Susan Gambles, cabinet member for housing and welfare, said: “One of the most important duties of central and local government is to protect those who are the most vulnerable in society.

“Alongside our local schemes, the Household Support Fund has been a safety net that has prevented many thousands falling into crisis.

“It has been effective because of the flexibility it affords to local authorities to tailor it to the need of their communities. Now is not the time for it to be cut or scaled back and making it even more difficult for us to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.”

In Wigan Borough, the largest proportion of the fund (47 per cent) has been used to feed school-aged children during the school holidays.

Councillor Jenny Bullen, cabinet member for children and families, said: “There’s no doubt that scrapping the Household Support Fund will increase the levels of hardship for families across our borough.

“It has a knock-on impact on our finances here at Wigan Council because our priority is to support young people and families as much as we can.

“We are more than happy to add our voices and join the calls to urge the government to reconsider.”