Child eating school dinner

£170m 'Covid Winter Grant Scheme' to support families and children

A new £170 million package titled Covid Winter Grant Scheme was announced yesterday (8 Nov) by Government, building on the vital support given to the most vulnerable during the pandemic.

The funding will be divided, with at least 80% reserved to support with food and bills, and will cover the period to the end of March 2021. Local Authorities will receive the funding at the beginning of December 2020.

This 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 are aware of which groups need support the most, and are best placed to guarantee appropriate holiday support is provided, which is why they will distribute the funds, rather than schools, who will proceed in 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 summers, 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 next April, 2021.

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. This will help people boost the long-term health of their children.

The Government has also promised additional funding of £16m for food distribution charities, with conversations with FareShare and others ongoing as to how this is allocated.

Ministers have also taken extraordinary measures during the pandemic to guard the most vulnerable, and put in place a strong package of financial support to support families and children.

This includes:

  • Protecting millions of jobs and livelihoods through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, which have been extended until March 2021
  • Increasing Universal Credit and Tax Credits by up to £20 a week this year
  • £63m for councils to provide emergency assistance to families, pensioners and the most vulnerable with food, essentials and meals
  • Extending free school meals support to those eligible when schools closed during lockdown
  • Increasing Local Housing Allowance rates for Universal Credit and housing benefit claimants, so it covers the lowest 30% of local rents – benefiting over 1 million households by on average £600 this year.

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.”

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