Local MP, Kemi Badenoch has welcomed the Government’s new winter package which include a £170million Covid Winter Grant Scheme to support children, families and the most vulnerable over winter, which will be run by local councils. This package builds on the significant support given to the most vulnerable during the pandemic.
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.
It will allow councils to directly help the hardest-hit families and individuals, as well as provide food for children who need it over the holidays. Local councils understand which groups need support, and are best placed to ensure appropriate holiday support is provided – which is why they will distribute the funds, rather than schools, who will continue providing meals for disadvantaged children during term-time.
The Holiday Activities and Food programme, which has provided healthy food and enriching activities to disadvantaged children since 2018, will also be expanded across England next year.
It 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 this summer’s by Essex County Council.
Healthy Start scheme payments are also set to increase from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from next April. This scheme supports pregnant women or those with children under 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.
Commenting, Mrs Badenoch said: “Ministers have been working at pace on these proposals for several weeks to give vulnerable families certainty. It is a shame that this was overshadowed by unpleasant negative campaigning and misinformation about free school meal vouchers.
“The Government is committed to making sure the most vulnerable are being supported and that they are able to feed themselves and pay their bills, which is why they have announced the Covid Winter Grant scheme that builds on the significant support provided for families over the last few months.
“As I have previously emphasised, our local authorities understand which groups need support and this is why the £170million Covid Winter Grant will be distributed by them.”