With inflation still high and the cost of living continuing to rise, many households around the borough are struggling. Ealing Council is doing everything it can to support these residents through this very difficult time and beyond. One way it can help is with the Household Support Fund (HSF).
The HSF is a government scheme administered by councils which aims to help anyone who is vulnerable or who cannot pay for essentials. It was introduced in 2021 to help low-income families who are struggling to afford basic, unavoidable expenses like energy bills, clothes, and food.
Ealing Council works with local charities to ensure the money gets to the right people at the right time. One of those organisations is Education and Skills Development Group (ESDEG), a west London-based charity which provides education and wellbeing support. ESDEG was allocated a share of the total of £200,000 that the council provided to the voluntary sector from the HSF.
‘Overwhelmed with requests for help’
Rahma Elmi coordinates the HSF project for ESDEG. She talked to us about her experience of working with some of the most vulnerable families in the borough, and what she has learnt.
“ESDEG has been involved with the HSF for the last year and a half,” she said. “We have been overwhelmed with requests for help. There is a very high demand in the local community for support – some people are really struggling. The debt our clients report has gone up, especially because of gas and electricity bills. When we first started, we used to see people with debts of around £250, but now it tends to be more like £800 to £900; missed payments can accumulate very quickly and become hard to catch up with.”
“The ones I see struggling the most are the pensioners; they are the most vulnerable,” she added. “Some are still having to choose between paying for food, their rent, or their bills. It’s a really difficult time for them.”
Help with paying your bills
Rahma says there are multiple ways that the HSF can be used to support those in need. “The scheme is very flexible and varies from family to family depending on their specific requirements. We help people to pay their gas, electricity, and water bills, and work with schools to provide parents with winter clothes – especially coats for children when they can’t afford to buy them. And a big part of this scheme is providing advice on things like debt management.”
This scheme is open only to the residents of Ealing who are in financial hardship. “There are certain criteria that must be met, like the beneficiaries must be in the low-income category and getting the likes of Universal Credit, Housing Benefit, Pension Credit, free school meals and so on”, she added. “One good thing is that it is also open to people who have no recourse to public funds. Those people have very limited ways to get help, so we’re glad that we can support them.”
Grocery parcels and electricity payments
Over the course of the programme, Rahma says ESDEG have made a series of improvements to the way they interact with their service users.
“We are more streamlined now, having learned and adapted. In the first phase, we were giving people food vouchers for supermarkets, but we have switched to giving out grocery parcels, which are far less hassle for them. In previous rounds, we would take people’s electricity cards to the post office to top them up. Now we ask clients to register online instead, so that its easier for them to keep track of their consumption and manage their accounts and payments.”
‘Reach out for help’
Councillor Steve Donnelly is Ealing Council’s lead member for an inclusive economy. He said: “Although inflation has come down a little since its soaring highs last winter, it is still very high compared to normal, and the cost-of-living crisis has not gone away. Many individuals and families are having to make difficult decisions.
“As we head into the winter months, if you are struggling financially, our message is – there is support available, so please reach out to us or our partners like ESDEG for help. Access to necessities can make a world of difference to vulnerable households, and our goal is to ensure that no one goes without food, fuel, and other essential supplies.”
“I would like to thank our partner organisations and community groups for their tireless work providing crucial help to local people.”
Don’t suffer in silence – support is available
There is no reason why anyone should be cold and hungry this winter. The Ealing Council website has a dedicated page which brings all the options for support together in one place.
Do Something Good is a one-stop website supporting people to find advice and access help from a broad range of organisations across Ealing.
Find out more about the Household Support Fund.
Other charities which work with Ealing Council on the Household Support Fund include: