THOUSANDS of households can get free cash or vouchers from the government's £500million Household Support Fund scheme.

The government has confirmed that the scheme, which helps struggling households with their bills, will run into next year.

A £500million round of new funding will be available for councils to dish out from October this year until March next year.

It will replace the current pot of funding which runs out on September 30 – which is this Friday.

The Household Support Fund was launched in October last year, and so far, £1.5billion has been put into the pot in total.

It has been a lifeline for thousands of households falling behind on their energy, food and fuel bills as prices soar under a cost of living crisis.

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However, many councils have ran out of cash before the deadline due to high demand.

Here's what you need to know about the scheme – and how to apply.

How much can I get?

How much you can get varies.

That's because each authority decides how – and how much – funding is available.

Each council has been given a portion of the funding to help local residents nationwide.

The amount each authority gets depends onsize, population, and needs of each area.

Then each council will decide on how to spend the cash, how it will be dished out, and any extra eligibility criteria.

The government has yet to confirm how much each council will get for the latest round of funding.

Usually, you have to be in receipt of a council tax reduction, or prove you're in financial difficulty, to get the help.

In some cases, you can get hundreds of pounds in help.

You can get direct cash payments worth up to £500 from some councils like Bromsgrove and Redditch, other authorities are offering vouchers – like Coventry City Council.

Residents of Effingham, near Guildford, could get up to £300 free cash to help them through the cost of living crisis.

To see what help is on offer in your area, contact your local council – you can find out who yours is by using the authority tool checker.

How do I apply?

Some households will have to apply for the help, while others will receive it automatically.

For example, households living in Warwickshire County Council's catchment area will receive free energy bill vouchers automatically.

While  Lewisham Council is sending payments to families with children receiving free school meals, and pensioner households if they apply for the help.

You'll need to ask your local authority for more information on how to apply.

What other help can I get?

There's plenty of other help on offer if you're not eligible for help through the Household Support Fund.

Energy companies offer hardship funds, for example you can get £750 from British Gas if you're a customer.

Households on pension credit or low incomes may qualify for the warm home discount scheme worth £150.

It's worth checking if you can get help with your food bills.

If you’re pregnant or have a child under the age of four then you may qualify for Healthy Start vouchers to help pay for basic foods such as milk or fruit.

You can apply for free school meals for your child if you're claiming certain benefits including Universal Credit.

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If your Universal Credit payment is not enough to cover your rent, you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).

This will give you extra money if your council decides you need help to meet your housing costs. You don't need to repay a DHP.

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