Department for Work and Pensions
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Families in need are getting extra government support in time for Christmas

The £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme announced last month is already in action, as vulnerable families across England get help through councils.

  • “No child should have to worry about food or warmth this winter” says Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey
  • Eating and heating are priorities for the scheme, backed by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Supermarket vouchers, winter clothing and funding for utility bills are among the support now being offered to vulnerable families through the government’s Covid Winter Grant Scheme (CWGS) announced last month.

Millions of pounds from the CWGS reached local authority bank accounts at the end of November 2020, helping councils from Cornwall to Cumbria to support vulnerable people this Christmas and beyond. Examples of funded schemes include:

  • In Essex, parents of children age 0-5 are being given Home Start packages, which include basic supplies and winter warmer packs for babies, and Christmas food and gift hampers for care leavers.
  • Telford and Wrekin is set to help more than 10,000 vulnerable children and young people with £360,000 of funding towards £30 supermarket vouchers. It’s also providing a winter clothing fund for children amid concerns that a high number of local children were coming to school without appropriate clothing.
  • Wirral is making £200,000 available to help low-paid households who are struggling to cover water or energy bills, with support being led by their local branch of Citizens Advice.
  • Sutton is offering £150 in food vouchers to each family entering emergency accommodation. The council are also topping up the Local Welfare Assistance Scheme, designed to help residents in need get help with food, fuel and replacement white goods.
  • In Somerset apprentices and young people (aged 16-18) who are not in employment, education or training are receiving vouchers, which will support them through the coldest months.
  • Herefordshire Council is purchasing £75 local supermarket vouchers to cover the Christmas period for families. The council will then use some remaining funds to provide additional support for households who are struggling with utility costs.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Thérèse Coffey, said:

No child should have to worry about food or warmth this winter. We have worked with councils across England to ensure the £170 million Covid Winter Grant delivers well-targeted support as quickly as possible, primarily focusing on heating and eating for disadvantaged families with children.

The grants are focused on helping families buy essentials, with at least 80% of funds ring-fenced to be spent on food, energy and water bills, with 20% available for other associated essential costs. Councils can also offer support to vulnerable individuals and households without children.

The remainder of the funds will be given in 2021, as the scheme is designed to run until the end of March 2021. The money is distributed to local authorities based on population size, whilst also weighting for deprivation in the local area.

Wider Support

This is all part of the government’s long-term plan to tackle poor health, hunger and education. In addition to the Covid Winter Grant Scheme, from Easter 2021, the Holiday Activities and Food Fund will be expanded with £220m of funding to cover the major school holidays that year. This will help disadvantaged children get healthy food and take part in fun and enriching activities.

Healthy Start scheme payments are also set to increase from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from next April 2021, and the government has pledged additional funding of £16m for the food distribution charity FareShare.

Devolved administrations have received equivalent funding through the upfront funding guarantee, which was recently increased to £16bn for the year to support their Covid-19 response.

Further information

Case studies and funding allocations

Essex

Essex are using the £3.83m they are receiving from the Covid Winter Grant Scheme to more than double a £2.4m fund they had put in place to help struggling families and adults through Christmas and winter. This has allowed them to spend the funds – a total of £6.2 million – on a variety of different schemes.

For example, almost £150,000 is being spent on supporting vulnerable hospital leavers as they return home during the winter period, including keeping them warm and making necessary adaptations to their home. A further £100,000 is being spent on Home Start packages for parents of children aged 0-5, focused on the most deprived wards across the country. And nearly £25,000 is being spent on sending care packages to over 900 care leavers, with each one being worth £25 and containing food, vouchers and a gift.

Just over £2 million of funding is being used to offer eligible children free school meals vouchers through the Christmas 2020 and February 2021 half-term holidays. £580,250 is being spent on holiday hunger initiatives and targeted activities for vulnerable children, and another £500,000 is being spent on an Essential Living Fund to help cover food, fuel, household goods and clothes for those most in need.

Herefordshire

Herefordshire intend to purchase £75 local supermarket vouchers for families in receipt of free school meals or a pupil premium, or disadvantaged students in college settings. This is intended to cover the cost of food for the two-week Christmas holiday period, and to allow household funds to also be redirected to cover utility bills. This will cost about 70% of their £537,980.55 funding.

The remaining 30% will be spent on a variety of different things. 15% of it will be given to charity organisations that are supporting residents in need, such as food banks, and those who provide meals and support to older people and former members of the armed forces. The other 15% will go to recipients of the supermarket vouchers in the new year to help fund utility costs.

Sutton

Sutton will use their funding in a variety of different ways. For example, they are spending £95,000 to support those moving into emergency accommodation in their area – this will consist of funding the service charge (for heating, water and electricity) for four weeks at £45.05 per week, as well as £150 of food vouchers for families moving in, and £60 to each single person moving in. In 2019/20, 225 families and 144 single people moved into emergency accommodation in the area.

They are allocating a further £60,000 to top up their own local welfare assistance scheme, which helps residents in crisis by providing support with food, fuel, and replacement white goods. This extra funding will allow them to have more flexibility to assist vulnerable people and increase the level of awards where necessary.

And they are spending £50,000 on bespoke awards administered by their Revenues and Benefits Service. This will allow the team to use a simple online form to administer and assess applications from vulnerable residents in receipt of Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reductions.

Somerset

Somerset have received just over £1.5 million from the scheme, which they have split to put towards several different areas. For example, they are spending just over £30,000 on their Somerset Works programme, which will provide vouchers to apprentices and young people (aged 16-18) not in employment, education or training who are in need this winter.

They are also spending £300,000 to create a fund to establish or supplement meal clubs before and after school. Schools and early years settings will be bidding for this funding, and prioritisation will be given to schools in areas of high deprivation or those that are rurally isolated.

Over 12,000 schoolchildren will be fed by £650,000 of funding to meet the needs of children in receipt of free school meals. Children not in receipt of free meals will also receive support, as schools and colleges will have access to an additional 15% above their FSM allocation. The council will also allocate £26,000 to support parents of early years children through the Healthy Start programme.

Telford & Wrekin

Telford & Wrekin have allocated £50,000 to fund a winter coat/clothing fund after hearing that higher numbers of children are coming to school without coats this year. Assuming £20 per coat, this would benefit 2,500 children. Schools and Children’s Services will be asked to identify children/families who most need this support and then refer them through a simple online process.

The council have also allocated £360,000 of funding towards £30 supermarket vouchers for approximately 10,700 vulnerable children and young people in their area. These vouchers can be used online for those who are self-isolating, and can be used for needs such as clothing as well as food. The vouchers will be emailed to parents along with other information about how families can get financial support. This is in addition to their existing borough-wide breakfast box scheme that is delivered by 11 community providers.

This will leave roughly £200,000 for support between January and March 2021, and the council will review their approach after Christmas to decide how this should be used.

Wirral

Wirral Council, who received over £1.2 million from the scheme, are investing up to £250,000 through individual grants (worth up to £10,000 each) to community-based food and welfare support groups. They are also making £200,000 available to help households having difficulties with water and energy bills, with support being led by Citizens Advice Wirral.

£37,000 is being made available to help vulnerable older people facing food poverty. Merseyside Fire and Rescue service will make ‘safe and well’ visits to vulnerable households, providing up to 400 temporary radiators. They will also provide up to 1,300 winter warmth packages, containing a scarf, gloves, socks, blanket, mug and gilet. And £30,000 will be made available to help around 120 households in financial crisis who need to call out a heating engineer in emergency circumstances.

Over £385,000 will be used to provide breakfast and lunch to over 6,300 local children during the Christmas holidays and February half term. And £80,000 will be earmarked to help Wirral’s Humanitarian Cell to provide emergency support for people in crisis, by offering support for specialist food, clothing and essential items, such as white goods.

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