HOUSEHOLDS can claim vouchers and cash worth up to £285 this winter.
Through the Household Support Fund they may be able to get financial help during what can be the most expensive season of the year.
Many households are particularly feeling the pinch as they've had to splurge on bills over Christmas, and make payments and wages stretch through January after the mega festive spend up.
But the government scheme may be a valuable lifeline – and we reveal what you can get and everything you need to know about the support offered in your area.
What is the Household Support Fund?
Those desperately in need of financial aid can get a leg-up with the Household Support Fund.
The scheme allows for cash-strapped households to apply for help across the board under what is a £500million government programme.
Councils were given the funding back in October to dish out help to families most in need of it.
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It came following the cut to the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift, which saw millions of families see their payments slashed.
It also aimed at helping to plug the gap with the end of other government help schemes like furlough, which offered a lifeline to struggling Brits during the pandemic, as well as the Covid local support grant.
The help you can get varies depending on who your local council is, as well as your personal situation, but you may be able to get money to help pay for things like heating your home or to cover costs of your weekly grocery shop.
How much can I get?
You can get up to £285 in cash and vouchers with the scheme depending on where you live and your personal circumstances.
Some councils offer less, and some offer nothing at all – but it's worth checking what your local area can provide.
Some councils offer vouchers, while elsewhere you claim free school meals worth a certain amount like £15 a week, too.
But in many instances you'll be able to claim between £30 and £100 in vouchers that can be specifically spent in your local supermarket, or on your prepayment meter energy bill.
Exactly how much you get may vary depending on your eligibility too.
Sometimes councils will factor in how many children you have, for example, or what other benefits you already claim.
How can I claim?
To claim you'll have to go through your local council's website.
There's no major rush to get an application in, that is, unless you were hoping for the cash to land before Christmas this year, but typically you'll only have the winter to claim.
Most councils are closing applications at the end of February or March in 2022.
Your circumstances will be checked, and other benefits you claim as well as how much you earn may be taken into account – so you'll have to declare some personal details when you apply.
Which councils are offering cash?
The Sun looked into what help is on offer from authorities up and down the country to see what thousands of families could get.
Each council will have its own eligibility criteria that you will need to meet in order to get the help – and this varies depending on who your local authority is.
In some cases you need to be claiming council tax support and claim or be eligible for certain benefits, like Universal Credit, to apply for the help.
For things like free school meals over holidays, your child needs to be already enrolled with the free school meal scheme running at your school during term time.
Families who live in the North Yorkshire County Council catchment area can claim a £125 voucher to help pay for food and other essentials.
If you apply in time, you will get a £125 voucher and a separate voucher worth the same amount in January next year – which means you can get up to £250 cash in total.
Those living in the East Riding of Yorkshire have until Christmas Eve to apply for up to £285 to help pay for household essentials and bills.
You can get up to £150 for food, £75 for fuel costs, and up to £60 for help paying for kids’ clothes.
Once your application is approved, you’ll get half of the total amount you’re entitled to now, with the other half paid in January or February next year.
It could mean you could get £142.50 before Christmas to help you pay your way and you can apply online via the council’s website.
If you live in Barnsley, you could get up to £200 in vouchers to spend at supermarkets and shops including Aldi, Asda, Argos and Currys – they'll usually arrive in 10 working days
Hillingdon Council is also offering £15 vouchers per child, per week over a period of one month.
That means if you have two kids, you will get £120 in total to help with food costs – and you could also get £100 to help with your energy bills too.
Dorset Council is offering households vouchers worth up to £200 to help pay their energy bills.
You’ll get up to four separate vouchers worth £50 each – you can find out more and apply on the council’s website.
Shropshire Council is also giving households £115 in free cash to be put towards food, energy and water bills.
You can only apply once for the payment through the authority’s website.
In January and mid-February, Durham council will be offering eligible families £60 worth of food vouchers on each date.
While you’ll need to apply by February 28 to Hertfordshire Council’s Household Support Grant.
You can get £60 in free cash for food, energy and essential goods.
Those living in Cambridgeshire could get a £30 supermarket voucher in time for the Christmas holidays too.
Meanwhile, families can get up to £120 in vouchers that can be put towards paying off prepayment meter energy bills if they live in North Northamptonshire.
And thousands of families can get £200 cold hard cash if they live in Birmingham as part of help from the scheme.
If yours hasn't already been mentioned, you should ask your local council about what help is available in your area, and the eligibility requirements – you can find out who yours is via the gov.uk website.
What other help can I get?
If you’re not eligible for the Household Support Grant but you’re strapped for cash, other help is available that you might be able to get.
Welfare assistance scheme
Brits can apply for much-needed cash and vouchers for food, furniture, bills and more via the welfare assistance scheme – and you can get up to £1,000 in free cash.
For example, East Riding of Yorkshire offers £1,000 in free cash for families to pay for essential bills, including food.
But an investigation by The Sun revealed that families are facing a postcode lottery when it comes to what help they can get.
Some councils are not as generous in offering help, while others don't even have a scheme in place at all.
Council tax reduction
Many people paying council tax may not be aware that they can get their bill reduced.
Reductions are available for those on low-incomes, people claiming certain benefits, those caring for others as well as other circumstances.
The amount your bill is reduced by can range from 25% off to 100% which would mean you pay nothing at all for this bill.
You should get in touch with your local authority to apply for a discount.
Discretionary housing payment
If you’re struggling to pay rent, you could apply for a discretionary housing payment.
The payment is discretionary, which means that the financial support given out is decided on a case by case basis.
How much you could get, again, depends on your personal circumstances – and you need to apply to your local council for the help.
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