Covid local support grant: How to claim up to £1,500 in help towards food, bills and essentials

HARD-UP Brits in England can get up to £1,500 cash to help pay for food, bills and other essentials, The Sun can reveal. 

In an investigation we found councils are handing out hundreds of pounds to families who’ve been struggling during the pandemic. 

Local authorities were given £429million to dish out to vulnerable residents as part of its Covid Winter Support Grant in December, following pressure from footballer and anti-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford.

But the payments vary based on where you live and how much support you need. 

The Sun has asked 25 councils how much residents in their areas can access through the scheme, which was renamed the Covid Local Support Grant.

Councils handed out almost all of the £270million they were given between December 2020 and June 2021.

The scheme has now been extended to run until the end of September, giving families extra to get help.

Myron Jobson, personal finance campaigner at Interactive Investor, said: “The perils of those reeling from the Covid pinch won’t disappear overnight once the scheme is wound up.

“More needs to be done to address the underlying drivers of financial hardship and break cycles of poverty.

“It is also important that those affected continue to pay attention to their financial wellbeing and take the necessary action and explore different support available – be it benefits, food banks – to shore up their position."

How much you can get

Grant amounts vary across the country, but our investigation found families received up to £1,587 to help pay for food, bills and other essentials. 

Wokingham Council said it had spent an average of £1,587 on “other essentials”, as four families needed help paying for roof or boiler repairs.

What to do if you can’t pay your bills

FALLING behind on your energy bills can be extremely stressful.

If you’re struggling to pay what you owe, contact your supplier as soon as possible.

Your provider has to help you come up with a solution, and you should be able to negotiate a deal that works for you both.

One option is to agree a payment plan where you pay off your debts in affordable instalments.

You may be able to pay off your debts directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme.

A fixed amount will automatically be taken to cover what you owe plus your usage.

To be eligible, you must be getting one of the following benefits:

  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income support
  • income-related employment and support allowance
  • Pension credit
  • Universal Credit (but only if you’re not working)

If you cannot come to an agreement with your supplier, they may try to force you to get a prepayment meter installed.

In very rare cases, where you refuse to negotiate, your supplier might threaten you with disconnection.

It handed out grants of £400 to families struggling to pay their energy bills, which covered a four week period. 

A further £2,000 was also donated to the local food bank, which was able to distribute fuel vouchers to its users.

In Middlesbrough, more than 4,086 grants have been paid out so far, with an average payment of £32.60.

Vulnerable families were able to make their own decision on which essential items to spend the money on, the council said.

Oxfordshire County Council handed out 252 fuel vouchers, with an average payment of £46.

It has also paid for community larder subscriptions, with a £3.50 weekly membership fee giving families access to up to £15 worth of food

There were 203 grant recipients in York, with total payments reaching £60,160 and £108 handed out per family, on average.

The maximum given to struggling families in the city was £370 for food and £450 towards energy bills.

West Sussex council revealed it spent an average of £430 per vulnerable household on energy bills.

The local authority has been working with Citizens Advice to hand out a total of £180,000 to residents to help with fuel bills.

In Wakefield, the average amount given out for energy costs was £118, rising to £400 for the biggest payment.

Meanwhile the biggest grant given for other essentials, not including fuel, was £362.

The council in West Yorkshire helped more than 500 families and individuals.

In the London Borough of Sutton, the cash was spent on meals for kids.

Around 7,250 grants were given out to children who would usually receive free school meals, and each voucher was worth £15.

But the council isn’t handing out grants for bills, demonstrating how much the scheme varies by area.

Who is eligible?

At least 80 per cent of the total funding is set aside to support households with children.

Up to 20 per cent can be spent on other households suffering from poverty in the pandemic.

The majority of the cash has to be spent on food and bills, but 20 per cent is allowed to be put towards other essential items.

This includes buying sanitary products, warm clothing and purchasing essential kitchen appliances.

Eligibility requirements vary depending on which local authority area you live in.

You can find your council is on the government website.

For example, West Sussex council gave vouchers to households living in fuel poverty.

That is when your bills are above average levels, and paying them leaves you with leftover income below the official poverty line.

In Oxfordshire, eligibility is assessed by staff at the council or local advice centres on a case by case basis.

Other council used existing benefit schemes, such as free school meals and council tax reductions, to determine eligibility. 

Local authority are also working with schools and community organisations to identify families and individuals in need of extra help. 

For example, Manchester Council extended the free school meals scheme to include any child identified as being in need by teachers. 

How to apply

Grants are often given on a case-by-case basis, with different application processes in place across the country. 

Councils also have different amounts to spend depending on the size and needs of their local population.

For example, Birmingham Council was recently handed an extra £4.9million, bringing its total to £13.1million.

But the affluent London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames has received £850,267 in total, and received £317,042 for the final months of the scheme.

This means that each local authority has different criteria for applications and eligibility.

To apply you first need to identify which local authority area you live in.

Then you should visit the council’s website and find the relevant page for information on the Covid Local Support Grant.

If you can’t find the information online, visit the website’s “contact us” section, and either email or phone your council to find out how to apply in your area.

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