Policy Brief: The Future of the Household Support Fund

News | Posted on Thursday 1 February 2024

A new Policy Brief from Dr Jed Meers, Dr Kit Colliver, Professor John Hudson and Professor Neil Lunt from University of York Cost of Living Research Group (CoLRG) examines the future of the Household Support Fund and its importance in supporting the needs of low-income households and activities in the third sector.

The future of the £1 billion-per-year “Household Support Fund” (HSF) is in doubt. This local authority-administered cost-of-living support is currently in its fourth wave, making millions of payments and providing support to low-income households across the country. A sizable package of discretionary support has been in place at the local level since the COVID “Winter Support Grant” in 2020, which evolved into the “COVID Local Support Grant” and in turn the HSF in 2021.

It has become a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of low-income households across the country during the cost-of-living crisis. However, the support is due to expire in March 2024 and there is still uncertainty as to whether it will be renewed.

This policy brief makes the case that the HSF should be renewed ahead of the March budget. 

Research at the University of York with 12 English Local Authorities has demonstrated the importance of this fund for both addressing the needs of low-income households and for supporting activities in the third sector such as welfare advice organisations and foodbanks.

The research suggests that these funds are playing a vital role in helping low-income households with the sharp increase in the cost of living and also supporting third sector organisations to deliver support, advice and essential services.

By March 2024, the supposedly temporary discretionary support delivered via Local Authorities – for the pandemic, the surge in energy bills and the rise in cost of living – will account for over £2.5 billion in welfare provision since December 2020. Uncertainty about the future of the fund causes problems for Local Authorities in its own right: it makes it impossible to plan effectively for the future and retain key staff.

Read the full Household Support Fund policy brief (PDF , 416kb)

You can also read an LSE blog published by the CoLRG titled “Should the Household Support Fund stay or go?”

Find out more about the University of York's Cost of Living Research Group.