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Councils get ready to support families in need this Christmas

30 Nov Councils get ready to support families in need this Christmas

The Government has announced more details of its £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme as local authorities begin to receive funding to support those most in need this winter.

Local allocations and guidance on how the money could be spent have now been published, as Councils get ready to support the lowest-paid families over Christmas and beyond.

The Covid Winter Grants are focused on helping families buy essentials, with the guidance re-enforcing that 80% of funds are ring-fenced to be spent on food, energy and water bills.

Councils can decide the best method of support, but this could include, for example, direct payments to individuals, providing meals directly, cascading funds to food distribution charities, or providing food vouchers.

Councils will receive half of their allocated funding from today, allowing them to put support in place ahead of the Christmas period. The remainder of the funds will be given in 2021, as the scheme is designed to run until the end of March.

The money will be distributed to local authorities based on population size, whilst also weighting for deprivation in the local area.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Thérèse Coffey said:

“No one should go hungry or be unable to pay their bills this winter. By empowering local authorities who know their areas best, this scheme ensures families are warm and well-fed this Christmas.

“This adds to the wide range of support already available, including £9.3 billion of additional welfare support to help families in need during the pandemic, along with mortgage holidays, support for renters, and billions in income support through the furlough scheme.”

The Government has encouraged local authorities receiving funding to engage with lower-tier councils and other organisations immediately to ensure any local eligibility and funding criteria are in place –  and the Government expects that they will be ready to help feed families as soon as the money arrives. Councils are in an excellent position to quickly and accurately identify families in their local area most in need of support.

The £170m is for Local Authorities in England only. Devolved Administrations have received equivalent funding through the upfront funding guarantee we have provided, which was recently increased to £16bn for the year to support their Covid-19 response.

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, and the government has pledged additional funding of £16m for food distribution charities.