Agenda item

Household Support Fund 2023-2024

      Report of the Chief Executive



Cllr Ian Blair-Pilling, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Leisure, Libraries, Facilities Management, and Operational Assets presented a report that outlined that Wiltshire Council had been allocated £5,457,313 from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The Fund was being provided to support households, who would otherwise struggle to buy food or pay essential utility bills or meet other essential living costs to help them with significantly rising living costs for the financial year 2023-24. Cllr Blair-Pilling outlined that previous Household Improvement Funds had been allocated and distributed over separate 6-month periods since 2021. The greatest allocations in the previous fund rounds had focused on the provision of free school meals during school holidays and to low-income households where the resident/s were over 65 years. Cllr Blair-Pilling outlined the types of support that could be provided through the fund as well as how the Support Fund could be delivered.


The Leader stated that having been through earlier iterations of this process, the Council now understood how the Support Fund worked and had since produced a better system with a better programme to use the resources available and act flexibly.


Cllr Laura Mayes questioned how people would receive the support, to which it was clarified by Cllr Blair-Pilling that Wiltshire Council had been given an open option to how such support would be provided, with an awareness that different ways work for different people. Examples were cited such as providing cash, vouchers, bank transfers or items such as slow cookers.


Cllr Mayes also sought clarity on how the Council would identify those that would need the support, to which Cllr Blair-Pilling noted that an application-based system would be provided. Additionally, Kate Blackburn, Director Public Health, noted that data sources across the Council would be used to identify people, with a group set to come together to look at the data.


Cllr Ian Thorn referred to paragraph 17 of the report, which stated it would be mandatory for “Authorities to reference that the grant is funded by the Department for Work and Pensions or the UK Government” and suggested that this was inappropriate. In response to this point, Cllr Blair-Pilling suggested it would be equally inappropriate to suggest that the money had been provided in whole by Wiltshire Council.


Cllr Thorn raised an additional point in relation to accessibility and referred to residents who might struggle to engage through smart phones and the internet, with it stated that he was pleased that lessons had been learnt in attempting to reach these people who might not be online.


Cllr Thorn questioned how support would be provided to people whose principal communication would be telephone, to which Kate Blackburn noted that work would be conducted to identify people who were not currently supported, and that information would not just be provided on a website, with a multi-directorate group set to oversee the planning and delivery of the support.


A further point was raised by Cllr Thorn as to collectively what percentage of the audience has engaged and whether the Council has a sense of who the audience is, to which Cllr Blair-Pilling noted that it’s difficult to know of everyone as the world is a changing place and that there are many strands of work to the Council, serving different functions in different communities.


Cllr Thorn suggested that the fund would be a perfect opportunity for the 98 Members of the Council to amplify the project, to which the Leader suggested that Members proceed carefully, with it stated that often the Council does receive soft intelligence of proud residents however it doesn’t make it any easier for them to accept the help offered.


Cllr Gavin Grant stated that he welcomed the Support Fund and posed questions how information could be fed into the system and better understand the voluntary and charity sector, with a lot of new informal groups having come together to work with existing ones to support communities during Covid and through the Warm Spaces Initiative. Cllr Grant also noted that there would be organisations currently providing funding through their own means which would partly overlap with the offer of the Support Fund. Cllr Blair-Pilling stated that though such queries could not be answered in detail, a plan must be provided by the deadline of 17 May, which could include the consideration of such charities.


Regarding charity and voluntary organisations, the Leader stressed that duplication was a severe risk that should be avoided and that work together should aim to provide different elements of support.


At the conclusion of discussion, it was,




That the Cabinet:


  1. Noted the content of this report.


  1. Delegate the payment criteria of the grant to the Corporate Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive (S151 Officer), Corporate Director for People and Director of Public Health in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Public Health, Leisure, Libraries, Facilities Management, and Operational Assets.


Reason for decision:


To inform Members of the Household Support Fund allocation Wiltshire Council has been awarded by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Supporting documents: