Delivering HSF with Impact

Delivering HSF

Local Authority Challenges

The Household Support Fund (HSF) has changed the landscape of welfare provision in the last two years, and it has been challenging for many local authorities to administer and implement.  At Huggg we’ve seen this first-hand working alongside our public sector and charity clients to support them to deliver funds to vulnerable households in their communities.  It’s been a learning journey for us and the organisations we work with, but it’s given us a unique insight into what makes the biggest impact when it comes to delivering HSF.   

Since the introduction of HSF in October 2021, local authorities have faced a range of challenges to ensure the funds have been delivered to those most in need.  Whilst there have been significant learnings since then, some challenges still remain.

Delivery Frameworks

For example, it is vital that there is a clear delivery framework in place to distribute HSF that can be quickly and easily approved by the cabinet and council leaders. If there is any ambiguity in the plan, or it asks too many questions of the council members, it can lead to delays due to debates on delivery, distribution, allocation or application processing methods.


There are also some questions around eligibility. In previous government guidance, there were set demographic parameters such as ensuring fund recipients were households with those aged under 19, or of state pension age. However, in the most recent documentation this has not been included, so authorities can make their own decisions on who is eligible, but still have to report on the types of households in DWP MI returns.  This means whilst there is more flexibility, it can be challenging to decide who should be in receipt of funding. Eligibility criteria needs to be defined with a clear rationale or framework that outlines the approach and more detailed analysis of data is required. Plus, the guidance recommends engagement with Third Party Organisations (TPO) to ensure a “broad cross section of vulnerable households” are eligible.


The application process remains tricky. The use of Local Welfare Schemes (LWS), DWP Searchlight, TPO information or the data share of UC and FSM claimants can help identify those families and individuals to support. However, it’s not a silver bullet to funds distribution, and government guidance outlines “Every area must operate at least part of their scheme on an application basis” allowing residents to come forward for support.

In fact, creating an application process which is easy to understand and complete is essential to ensure HSF is distributed fairly and efficiently. For some local authorities they’ve discovered working with a TPO to manage the application process provides a more efficient way of getting to the communities they serve, as they are closest to them. Government guidance also outlines “Authorities must operate an application-based service for support to ensure those in need have a route to emergency support”. In addition, the fund must be clearly advertised to residents and local communities, meaning a clear and focused marketing and communication plan is vital to make sure no one is left behind and funds are used effectively.

Payment Distribution

Given there are no strict guidelines on how to distribute the funds, many authorities are also faced with a dilemma on how best to get the payments to those who are eligible. There are pros and cons to supplying funds directly to bank accounts, using prepaid cards or issuing vouchers.  There is a balancing act between acquiring private and sensitive information for direct-to-bank payments, or having control over how the funds are spent by issuing vouchers that do not require such information.

Reporting and Tracking

Finally, compliance, tracking and reporting remain the biggest hurdle. The start point is effective communication with stakeholders, district councils, community and TPOs which is essential to ensure the distribution of the support fund is transparent and well understood. It also helps to reduce the number of Freedom of Information requests and makes sure the delivery plan is well understood by all stakeholders from the outset. As the remit of HSF has now broadened, for some authorities, working with a TPO such as a local charity, or Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) ensures the application process, eligibility check and payment can be undertaken by organisations who are close to the communities they serve. However, it’s important to make sure the funds are being allocated compliantly, adhering to GDPR and DWP reporting guidelines, and this can be achieved through one MI return.
The MI reports required by DWP are essential to ensure authorities receive the correct level of funding based on their MI returns. Non-compliant returns or MI reports that don’t have the correct level of information will mean there will be delays in payments. Tracking the payments is also key and many authorities often overlook the importance of accurately tracking the distribution of the support fund, and providing regular reports to stakeholders. This type of detailed reporting provides rich data, which shows a council’s commitment to their community and the impact of the fund and the type of households who have received payments.

Huggg Solution

The Huggg platform is free of charge to public authorities and charitable organisations and enables them to send groceries, clothing and/or home essentials vouchers to recipients across the community. Each recipient can decide which retailer they will spend their voucher with, giving them the power and the dignity of choice. Huggg also provides 7 day a week support to both its client organisations and recipients.

Helpful Guide

We understand that delivering and marketing HSF effectively to those in need can be complex and challenging, taking up vital resources that are already stretched to capacity.  In addition, creating reports and gaining cabinet approval for delivery plans can be time consuming.

So, following the announcement that HSF has been extended again, we’ve created a guide to ‘Delivering HSF with Impact’, which includes templates such as delivery plans, working with TPOs, as well as marketing plans, guidance and messaging that can be used across all media and social media platforms. For those councils that are using TPOs such as charities, housing associations and CAB to help administer the funds, the Huggg platform will support with full transparency of how they are using the funds and links with reporting/controls.

We work with over 500 local authorities, councils, CABs, charities and housing associations, providing support, as well as invaluable information to help deliver HSF in their communities.  By reviewing countless delivery and marketing plans, talking to our clients, and working with TPOs, we’ve researched what best practice looks like when it comes to delivering HSF. Our guide includes the key challenges that local authorities are facing when delivering HSF, and what’s vital to success; A review of what good looks like when creating delivery plans for council and cabinet approval, with key headings and content recommendations for plans; Best practice marketing and communication advice to promote HSF, to encourage applications from those who have not been proactively targeted; Guidance for making payments and how to ensure funds are disbursed effectively giving choice to the recipients; and an overview on what to take into consideration when working with a TPO to deliver HSF, to create an effective partnership delivering the funds to the right people.

The role of distributing HSF funds is often given to hard pushed teams that have a heavy workload already and our platform enables them to work at scale and allow and distribute thousands of vouchers quickly and easily with built in reporting and redemption data. These new initiatives are designed to help further reduce time spent on planning and marketing the schemes and ensure that the funds are distributed quickly and efficiently. Ultimately it will help organisations to send and manage retail vouchers at scale to those in need, helping local authorities and their TPOs to get vital funds quickly and efficiently to recipients with vouchers to pay for groceries, clothing and essential household items.

Paul Wickers, Founder and CEO, Huggg