Agenda item

Pre-Decision Scrutiny: Distribution of the Household Support Fund Grant

The Scrutiny and Overview Committee is asked: -

1.     To note the report due considered by the Mayor at the Cabinet meeting on 7 December 2022.

2.     To consider whether there are any recommendations or observation arising from the Sub-Committee’s consideration of the report to the submit for the consideration of the Mayor at the Cabinet meeting.



The Sub-Committee considered a report set out in the supplementary agenda, which provided a Cabinet paper on the Council’s approach to the distribution of the Household Support Fund of £3,013,689.49, as allocated by the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), covering the period 1st October 2022 to 31st March 2023. The Director of Housing introduced the item.


Members asked how the Fund would be publicised and the Corporate Director of Housing explained that this would be done through the website, directly targeted communications, the voluntary sector, schools and partner organisations. The Vice-Chair suggested that Councillors were consulted on the best ways to reach residents. The Chair requested that previous funding round distributions were mapped and the Head of Temporary Accommodation explained that work to analyse and map this data was still ongoing.


The Sub-Committee asked whether this could be delivered in full given that the grant was already in the third month of the eligibility timeframe, why this had not been delivered earlier, and whether the allocation period would be extended beyond April 2023. The Corporate Director of Housing explained that this Grant had been a recent announcement from government, with guidance on distribution only made available in November 2022. Members heard that it was likely that all of the money would be spent in the period and it was unlikely that the DWP would extend the deadline. The Head of Temporary Accommodation explained that learning from previous rounds would be incorporated including targeting residents through schools, directly targeted communications and inter-departmental collaboration.


Members asked about risk from the Fund, if there was additional resource that could be drawn on should it be spent early, and what would be done should the DWP fail to reimburse the Council.The Corporate Director of Housing explained there was no risk to the General Fund and that a single point of contact had been established across the directorates; this was the third funding round of this Grant and the Council had good experience of ensuring that there were strong audit trails and recovery from the DWP. The Sub-Committee asked whether direct applications were allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis and about the risks of fraud. The Corporate Director of Housing explained the importance of audit trails in ensuring a full return of funds from the DWP and that all claims needed to be fully evidenced. The Head of Temporary Accommodation stated that applications for the fund would be on a first-come-first-serve basis but that all applications would be fairly assessed against criteria.


The Chair asked about how the allocation criteria had been decided. The Corporate Director of Housing stated that this would be better explained in the press release and information sent to Members on the fund; households would be directly targeted on a proactive basis, including those paying for energy through service charges. The Head of Temporary Accommodation explained that the guidance on the fund from the DWP was clear and this would be provided in future communications.


Members asked how long it took from a direct application being made to the payment being received. The Head of Temporary Accommodation explained that the Discretionary Housing Support team would be processing applications with a timeframe of two weeks for direct applications but that residents targeted through other directorates’ databases would be paid directly which should ensure this was paid quicker. The Sub-Committee raised concerns that two weeks was a long time for the most vulnerable residents, and it was explained that direct applications were a small amount of the funding total with the majority of the fund being paid faster.


The Chair asked how learning from previous rounds had informed the strategy for this round of Grant funding.The Corporate Director of Housing explained that having a central point of contact had been a major learning, and that keeping good track of allocations was also extremely important. The Chair asked if there was a monitoring framework in place. The Head of Temporary Accommodation explained that grant conditions in the second round had been very specific, but these conditions had been largely removed in this round to focus on fuel poverty, food and essentials with the discretionary element limited in favour of targeted support. The Corporate Director of Housing explained that monitoring data could be provided at a later date.




The Sub-Committee requested that simplified information on grant eligibility be provided to Members and residents.


The Sub-Committee concluded that Members should be involved in helping to identify possible allocations for the Fund.


The Sub-Committee thanked officers for their hard work in getting the Fund into place in good time and under challenging conditions considering the late issuing of government instructions on the distribution of the Household Support Grant.


Information Requests


The Sub-Committee concluded that an update be provided on how direct applications to the Fund would be promoted.


The Sub-Committee requested that the timeframe for payments reaching bank accounts from the point of direct application be provided.




  1. Members recommended that publicity be clear on the criteria and exceptions relating to the distribution of the Discretionary part of the fund and to consider using of social media advertising (including Facebook paid ads) to proactively publicise the Fund. It was further recommended that all councillors were provided with the information in a timely manner so they can promote through community networks and other social media channels incl. Next Door. (Chair and Vice-Chair to be updated on communication of the grant before Christmas break 2022)


  1. The Sub-Committee recommended that a provision for emergency situations be investigated for the discretionary element of the Fund. This could be in the form of faster processing of the grant (days instead of a two week turnaround) and/or vouchers. (Chair and Vice Chair to be updated on feasibility before the Christmas break 2022)


Supporting documents: