4. The assessment process
Once a completed application and the required supporting evidence is received, the details will be passed on to an advisor within our Housing Solutions team. The advisor will make a decision based on the information provided in the application form and any other information available to them. The advisor will also consider all the circumstances and reasons that led to an application being made.
In making a decision on whether to make an award from the scheme and the amount to be awarded, the advisor will consider the eligibility criteria and our approach to prioritisation, as well as the funds that we have available at the time of application. Once we have assessed whether the application falls within our eligibility criteria, we will consider whether the applicant meets one or more of our prioritisation criteria.
Our advisors will also consider all the information at their disposal to assess the risk faced by the applicant and the relative priority of their application including:
- Financial circumstances
- Access to other forms of financial support
- Circumstances and reasons for the claim
- Preventative measures taken by the applicant or partner
- Impact of making or not making of the award
- The budgetary situation of the fund
- Receipt of cost-of-living payments or former Household Support Fund awards
Our advisors will access DWP and HMRC records to verify income through a system called Searchlight.
Calculating the amount of an award
As part of the application, you will be asked to give an indication of the support that is required. However, the assessing advisor will determine the amount of support based on local economic factors and arrangements in place with other agencies/retailers. It will not always be possible to provide the full amount due to the limited funds we have available.
The Housing Solutions Team will use the Association of Housing Advice Services Affordability Guidance for base rates of costs for items such as white goods, food, and utility costs. Where costs exceed this, any award will be subject to additional money and budgeting advice to support applicants reduce these costs to better help their long-term financial situation.
We do not anticipate awards to be made in excess of £650 for any family applying through the application process but each case will be assessed on case-by-case basis. Awards on average were £200-£300 as an indictive figure.
Advising you of a decision
Once the advisor has made a decision on your application, we will give you a written notice advising you:
Whether an award has been made and the reason for the decision
The intended use of the award
The amount of the award
We will also let you know about other services in the council and the community which may be able to provide further support. We will also advise you as to how the award will be made.
Reviewing unsuccessful applications
The scheme is discretionary and there are no appeal rights to an Independent Tribunal, but you can ask us to look at your case again within 5 days of our decision if you are not happy with the outcome of your application. Requests for a review of our decision need to be made in writing. It must state the reasons why you are asking for a review of the decision and be signed and dated.
You will be notified of the review decision within 14 days of your request. This decision will be final. If you do not have access to a computer, you can contact us, and we will advise you on how you can request a review.
How often can I apply?
Due to the limited nature of the funding and the overarching guidance that applicants should only receive one payment towards cost of living, repeat applications will not usually be considered.
Other information about the scheme
The Household Support Fund is a fixed amount of money made available to local authorities by the Department for Work and Pensions to be used to support households in the most need with food, energy and water bills this winter. As funds are limited, the council will prioritise those households facing the greatest need. The scheme is due to run until 31 March 2024 but will be staggered into two parts. The first application process will be ended 30 September 2024 and reopen over winter 2024. To maximise the support, we can provide to all our residents, we will always redirect residents to other forms of support where we feel this is more appropriate to support their needs.
In line with the principles of good administration, all applications will be treated fairly and consistently under the terms we have set out here. Applications will be processed in a timely manner, but it is not an emergency payment scheme. We aim to complete assessments within 14 days of all information being submitted to complete the assessment.
We will monitor this scheme on an ongoing basis. We will regularly review the scheme to ensure that we are making the best use of the money we have available. To support our monitoring and evaluation, we may contact applicants after decisions on awards have been made to ask for feedback about the scheme and may also share your data with other colleagues in the council to support our monitoring and evaluation of the scheme.