Government gave councils one-off funding in autumn via the household support fund. This extra funding allowed Ealing Council to extend the help that it gives through its local welfare assistance scheme from just families on qualifying benefits to those working, but on low incomes.
Since last October, more than 700 Ealing households have received a crisis payment to help with fuel costs, to buy food, or meet other household expenses. This is three times the number the council would normally expect to help over this period. Most of them will not qualify for help when the criteria revert to those on qualifying benefits only.
The household support grant funding also paid for 10,000 Ealing households to receive food vouchers to help feed their children during the school holidays, as well as the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme. HAF is a free holiday scheme that provides lunch, as well as sports and activities, for school children who qualify for free school meals on income grounds.
The extra Government funding will stop at the end of this month. The spring HAF and food vouchers are fully funded for the Easter school holidays, but the programme’s future after April is in doubt.
Unless new funding is announced by the Chancellor in his spring statement on Wednesday, more than 10,000 of the borough’s most vulnerable households will be facing a cut in financial support at the same time that inflation, rising fuel and energy costs, and food price increases put a huge pressure on household finances.
Councillor Steve Donnelly, cabinet member for an inclusive economy, said: “We cannot sit back and watch 10,000 of our most vulnerable families fall over this financial cliff edge. The small amount of extra support the Government has put in place is set to be taken away at a time at the very worst time when bills are spiralling out of control.
“These food vouchers and crisis payments are a last safety net for local people, and I fear that many are going to be driven into the hands of loan sharks and payday lenders if this help is taken away. The Chancellor must step up and do something now.”