STRUGGLING households can get help towards their food and energy bills from their local councils through a new grant scheme.
Councils have been given a share of a £170million pot from the government to fund schemes to support vulnerable local residents.
The support is aimed at helping families who's income has dropped due to the coronavirus pandemic through the tougher winter months.
More than 800,000 jobs have been lost during the coronavirus outbreak and the poorest families will have been hit hardest.
In November, the government announced the Covid winter grant scheme to help lift some of the pressure on households.
It was set up after a high-profile campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford called on the state to provide free school meals outside of term-time.
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.
Around 80% of the funds have been ring-fenced to be spent on food, energy and water bills while the remaining 20% is for other associated costs.
The cash is being managed by local authorities and includes supermarket vouchers, free winter clothing and funding for utility bills.
It is up to councils how the funds are used so support will vary depending on where you live, but you could get help worth up to £150.
Thérèse Coffey, work and pensions secretary, said: "No child should have to worry about food or warmth this winter.
"We have worked with councils across England to ensure the £170million Covid winter grant delivers well-targeted support as quickly as possible, primarily focusing on heating and eating for disadvantaged families with children."
How to claim for the Covid winter grant scheme
The grants are distributed to local authorities based on population size and how much poverty is in the local area.
Councils are offering different types of support so what you can get depends on where you live.
For example, Sutton council is giving families who have to move into emergency accommodation £150 food vouchers.
Essex County Council has received one of the largest grants at £3.8million.
How much has your council received?
- Barking and Dagenham London Borough £870,076.68
- Barnet London Borough £986,960.35
- Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council £946,111.32
- Bath and North East Somerset Council £386,700.64
- Bedford UA £482,305.73
- Bexley London Borough £619,722.83
- Birmingham City Council £5,188,935.15
- Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council £645,965.10
- Blackpool Borough Council £704,710.72
- Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council £1,110,882.11
- Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council £1,068,327.58
- Bracknell Forest Borough Council £221,214.27
- Brent London Borough £1,142,416.48
- Brighton and Hove Council £865,416.71
- Bristol Council £1,640,461.40
- Bromley London Borough £753,861.37
- Buckinghamshire County Council £967,503.82
- Bury Metropolitan Borough Council £619,418.58
- Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council £734,010.82
- Cambridgeshire County Council £1,459,490.26
- Camden London Borough £783,243.59
- Central Bedfordshire UA £587,054.00
- Cheshire East UA £880,471.92
- Cheshire West and Chester UA £925,446.97
- City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council £2,280,372.57
- City of London £20,166.03
- City of York Council £416,729.66
- Cornwall County UA £1,831,567.30
- County of Herefordshire District Council £537,980.55
- Coventry City Council £1,292,612.14
- Croydon London Borough £1,206,805.20
- Cumbria County Council £1,496,417.79
- Darlington Borough Council £364,817.20
- Derby City Council £899,489.62
- Derbyshire County Council £2,181,024.15
- Devon County Council £2,042,754.05
- Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council £1,203,509.07
- Dorset Council £922,153.80
- Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council £1,058,104.52
- Durham County UA £1,872,512.86
- Ealing London Borough £1,068,982.09
- East Riding of Yorkshire Council £825,096.34
- East Sussex County Council £1,594,930.86
- Enfield London Borough £1,149,542.86
- Essex County Council £3,838,050.28
- Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council £740,348.86
- Gloucestershire County Council £1,507,674.65
- Greenwich London Borough £967,678.82
- Hackney London Borough £1,152,002.41
- Halton Borough Council £519,963.33
- Hammersmith and Fulham London Borough £585,126.11
- Hampshire County Council £2,898,701.72
- Haringey London Borough £986,329.83
- Harrow London Borough £588,955.86
- Hartlepool Council £396,948.59
- Havering London Borough £664,716.69
- Hertfordshire County Council £2,493,530.80
- Hillingdon London Borough £831,315.79
- Hounslow London Borough £823,377.35
- Isle of Wight Council £456,845.34
- Isles of Scilly Council £4,147.67
- Islington London Borough £877,270.22
- Kensington and Chelsea Royal Borough £471,864.58
- Kent County Council £4,504,098.51
- Kingston Upon Hull City Council £1,229,116.79
- Kingston upon Thames Royal Borough £343,579.32
- Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council £1,487,770.76
- Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council £740,731.55
- Lambeth London Borough £1,118,444.74
- Lancashire County Council £3,920,808.87
- Leeds City Council £2,837,556.77
- Leicester City Council £1,401,735.27
- Leicestershire County Council £1,462,162.43
- Lewisham London Borough £1,082,507.93
- Lincolnshire County Council £2,223,450.43
- Liverpool City Council £2,438,778.60
- London Borough of Richmond upon Thames £336,857.43
- Luton Borough Council £732,712.95
- Manchester City Council £2,581,417.35
- Medway Borough Council £908,596.17
- Merton London Borough £476,193.25
- Middlesbrough Borough £659,634.41
- Milton Keynes Council £722,191.40
- Newcastle upon Tyne Metropolitan District Council £1,147,567.52
- Newham London Borough £1,354,166.89
- Norfolk County Council £2,740,592.35
- North East Lincolnshire Council £628,462.94
- North Lincolnshire Council £532,566.93
- North Somerset Council £528,410.63
- North Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council £644,988.11
- North Yorkshire County Council £1,435,400.85
- Northamptonshire County Council £2,080,715.35
- Northumberland County UA £992,515.33
- Nottingham City Council £1,414,274.85
- Nottinghamshire County Council £2,316,008.18
- Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council £974,688.98
- Oxfordshire £1,367,906.39
- Peterborough City Council £743,661.56
- Plymouth City Council £926,040.55
- Portsmouth City Council £765,635.46
- Reading Borough Council £464,497.68
- Redbridge London Borough £788,900.75
- Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council £522,778.70
- Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council £936,916.05
- Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council £1,007,395.16
- Rutland County Council District Council £63,022.00
- Salford Metropolitan District Council £1,089,353.76
- Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council £1,404,606.44
- Sefton £980,471.32
- Sheffield City Council £2,090,323.22
- Shropshire County UA £841,634.07
- Slough Borough Council £475,125.36
- Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council £565,838.18
- Somerset County Council £1,545,187.24
- South Gloucestershire Council £569,161.01
- South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council £596,981.79
- Southampton City Council £900,866.24
- Southend-on-Sea Borough Council £573,689.90
- Southwark London Borough £1,111,657.80
- St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council £716,322.51
- Staffordshire County Council £2,221,422.84
- Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council £867,758.09
- Stockton-On-Tees Borough Council £679,491.40
- Stoke-on-Trent City Council £1,083,577.42
- Suffolk County Council £2,077,927.29
- Sunderland City Council £1,071,863.77
- Surrey County Council £2,126,391.50
- Sutton London Borough £461,996.24
- Swindon Borough Council £614,935.46
- Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council £894,614.60
- Telford and Wrekin Council £609,359.45
- Thurrock Council £523,003.90
- Torbay Borough Council £500,463.83
- Tower Hamlets London Borough £1,203,030.43
- Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council £588,244.62
- Wakefield Metropolitan District Council £1,259,170.55
- Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council £1,134,745.58
- Waltham Forest London Borough £945,547.02
- Wandsworth London Borough £836,207.30
- Warrington Borough Council £581,642.70
- Warwickshire County Council £1,404,610.50
- West Berkshire District Council £278,888.42
- West Sussex County Council £1,989,591.80
- Westminster City Council £766,382.48
- Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council £1,124,537.72
- Wiltshire County UA £1,107,932.98
- Windsor and Maidenhead Royal Borough Council £236,355.75
- Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council £1,224,616.93
- Wokingham District Council £208,703.00
- Wolverhampton Metropolitan Borough Council £1,061,922.62
- Worcestershire County Council £1,607,260.87
It is using some of the funding to provide home-start packages that include basic supplies and winter warmer packs for babies, and Christmas food and gift hampers for care leavers.
This is on top of a £2.4million fund the council already had put in place to help struggling families and adults through Christmas and winter.
Wirral Council has received £1.2million and is making £200,000 available to help low-paid households who are struggling to cover water or energy bills, with support being led by their local branch of Citizens Advice.
Herefordshire Council is using its £537,980.55 of funding to purchase £75 local supermarket vouchers for families in receipt of free school meals or the pupil premium or for disadvantaged students in college.
Funds will also be provided to charities supporting food banks and those who provide meals and support to older people and former members of the armed forces.
Telford and Wrekin Council has received £609,359.45 that will go towards providing 10,000 vulnerable children and young people with £360,000 of funding towards £30 supermarket vouchers.
It is also providing a winter clothing fund for children.
You will need to contact your local authority to access support. Contact details can be found by typing your postcode into the Gov.uk website.
The government this week also extended the furlough job support scheme for an extra month.
If you need more support, see our 34 ways to get help with your bills before Christmas guide.
See if you can apply for a self-employed grant.
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