The Oxfordshire County council provides emergency assistance from the Support Fund. This is the region’s version of the local welfare provision. A limited amount of financial aid, in the form of vouchers or household goods, will be supplied to low income individuals or families that are in a crisis.
Any help available from the Support Fund is provided at the discretion of the council, and they are under no legal obligation to assist. When the authorities to decide to provide support, it will be in the form of a pre-paid card which can only pay the bills that they have approved for payment. Some examples of what can be covered includes furniture, food, energy bills, or help for resettling. Welfare can also help with emergency travel and some other costs, at the discretion of the council.
People that can apply for a pre-paid card need to be on a low income. They also need to be on benefits, such as job seekers allowance. If the person is not currently receiving some form of benefit, then they need to be eligible.
Another criteria in place is that the applicant needs to have applied for assistance from other schemes and agencies first. This means that they need to have sought groceries from a food bank or applied for schemes from their local district council or charities. If the Oxfordshire resident is trying to get help for their heating costs, then they need to have tried a payment plan or other energy bill assistance programmes. In other words, welfare is a last resort. The Support Fund can only be used once all other resources are exhausted.
Also, if the reason for the hardship is a delay in benefits starting, then residents need to try DWP programmes first, such as budgeting loans or an advance. All of this is required as the money available from the Oxfordshire Support Fund is limited. Only a small number of residents can receive financial aid for bills or household goods because of this limitations.
The council will decide what bills can be paid by the Support Fund. They will make an assessment of the applicant. As part of this, they will determine if the family is threatened with a health or safety crisis. Or maybe the person is on the verge of homelessness. All of this will be reviewed by the council in Oxfordshire County and priority will be made as needed.
After this assessment, if the family is eligible, assistance can be provided, with a priority on keeping someone safe and secure. Welfare can help with the following needs.
- A pre-paid card may allow the family to receive furniture. The goods will be from a charity shop or furniture recycling centre in Oxfordshire.
- The vulnerable that are faced with going cold in the winter can have a fuel meter topped off, so the Support Fund will help with paying heating bills. A priority is on older people on homes with children.
- People that may be moving into an institution can receive support so they can remain in their current home, such as white goods. Or signposting is available to local schemes for paying a deposit or addressing other housing needs.
- The council partners with both independent and Trussell Trust food banks in Oxfordshire. Vouchers can be used to receive food in an emergency.
- Other uses of pre-paid cards from the scheme may be for travel, baby nappies, fridges, energy costs and more.
Any assistance is combined with free advice. Since welfare is only short term support, and can help at most once every 12 months, the council wants people to address the cause of their financial hardship. Whether it is help in dealing with debt arrears or job training, the team at the Oxfordshire County council office will provide this form of help. They will signpost a client to local agencies as needed.
An award will be issued within 5 to 10 days. If the family is faced with a crisis, then some assistance, such as a food parcel, can be provided within less time. If an award is declined by the Oxfordshire council, then appeals can be made. However the council is under no legal obligation to provide help from the Support Fund. The office is at Oxford, OX1 9GX, and telephone number is 0845 050 7666.