The Leader of Rotherham Council has again joined calls to extend a crucial financial support scheme for struggling households in Rotherham, as part of national calls led by high profile charities.

Organisations including The Children’s Society, Trussell Trust, Barnardo’s, the Local Government Association, and other councils across the country are calling on the Government to extend the Household Support Fund, which is still due to end on 31st March. The fund enables councils to provide emergency support suited to the needs of their communities, whether that is so families can buy essentials such as food, energy or help with providing white goods or furniture.

In the last year Rotherham MBC has supported nearly 13,000 Rotherham children through free school meals vouchers during the school holidays, as well as thousands more with council tax support and energy crisis payments for people who might otherwise face having their gas and electricity supplies cut off. The fund has been worth £4.9 million to Rotherham residents this year whilst the increased cost of living as well as inflated rental and mortgage costs has forced many more families into financial crisis and on the brink of destitution.

The Household Support Fund can be used to support families by providing vouchers for food, in one case shared with The Children’s Society this meant a mother could use her benefits to keep the bailiffs away and to help her get on top of things after fleeing domestic violence. It will be a long slow journey to financial stability, but without the help of the household support fund, they would have had possessions taken by bailiffs and faced the potential loss of their home. She described the vouchers as a blessing and a lifeline.

Without this funding there are concerns there will be a major gap in support which could severely affect children’s health, wellbeing and life chances.

Cllr Chris Read says, “When we first sounded the alarm that the government had not renewed this funding before Christmas, Conservative councillors simply denied that this funding was being withdrawn and said its extension was still being “considered”. Yet here we are, months later, after the government’s budget and just five weeks from the end of the existing funding, and still there is nothing. Maybe the Tories were lying or maybe there were just oblivious but now some of the most prominent children’s charities in the country are again sounding the alarm. There’s still time for the Tories to stop burying their heads in the sand, but that time is quickly running out. Thousands of people in our community need them to change course, and to do it urgently.”

Mark Russell, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said “The Household Support Fund has provided a vital safety net for so many families facing financial crisis and destitution.

“We have seen it provide a wide range of support such help when a family has a sudden job loss, bereavement or boiler breakdown. It can also as supplying food vouchers for children over the summer. We are really concerned that if the funding is not renewed past March these vouchers will disappear and holiday hunger will be a major issue.

“We are asking the public to write to their MP to call on the Government to take action and extend the fund so families in crisis aren’t left without support.”

Rotherham Labour’s petition can be found here.

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