Children and families will get extra support this winter, with councils given additional government funding to ensure vulnerable households do not go hungry or without essential items. It has been confirmed that Hertfordshire County Council is in line to receive over £2.4 million.
The funding will be ring-fenced, with at least 80% earmarked to support with food and bills and will cover the period to the end of March 2021. Local Authorities will receive the funding in December 2020, and it will enable them to directly help the hardest-hit families and individuals, as well as provide food for children who need it over the holidays.
Watford MP Dean Russell said “I completely understand and agree with the strength of feeling around supporting the most vulnerable in society. Providing support for vulnerable families was part of the election manifesto last year and I have been actively lobbying to ensure the right support reaches those who are in need. Local councils know which groups in their community need support and are best placed to ensure appropriate holiday support is provided – which is why they have been tasked with distributing the £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme.
Russell continues “As I said after the recent free school meals debate, it is essential we have a focused and sustainable approach to support the most vulnerable. This announcement goes much further and provides much deeper support than free school meals during school holidays ever could. My belief is we have to go further than just putting food on the table when children are not in school and this approach delivers on this. Every aspect of this announcement is designed to nourish children physically and mentally with healthy food and extensive support throughout school holidays with activities and much more, delivered through individual council initiatives.
Ministers have quite rightly taken unprecedented measures during this pandemic to protect the most vulnerable and put in place a strong package of long-term support to help families and children. This extensive package will not just help children but will also be used to help support people of all age ranges. There are no constraints on how local authorities deliver these services – which may include cash, vouchers, food, or funding through third party organisations."
The Holiday Activities and Food programme, which has been in place since 2018, will also be expanded across England next year.
The support announced will cover Easter, Summer and Christmas in 2021, and cost up to £220m. It will be available to children in every local authority in England, building on previous programmes – including Summer 2020, which supported around 50,000 children across 17 local authorities.
Healthy Start scheme payments are also set to increase from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from April 2021. This scheme supports pregnant women or those with children under the age of four who have a low income and are in receipt of benefits to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.
The Government has also pledged additional funding of £16m for food distribution charities, with conversations with FareShare and others ongoing as to how this is allocated.
Work and Pensions Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, said:
We want to make sure vulnerable people feel cared for throughout this difficult time and, above all, no one should go hungry or be unable to pay their bills this winter. We know this has been a challenging time for many, and we have consistently supported the lowest-paid families, protecting 9 million jobs with furlough and boosting welfare support by £9.3 billion. This package builds on that support, and by extending our successful Holiday Activities and Food programme, as well as funding a £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme, we are making sure families get the help they need.”