Hampshire’s vulnerable children will receive food vouchers this May Half Term (31 May – 4 June) thanks to an initiative to support families experiencing difficulties because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The scheme will be organised through the ‘connect4communities’ programme, which is led by Hampshire County Council, in collaboration with community partners such as schools, colleges and Early Years providers, as well as voluntary and charity organisations. Community grants are also available to fund food and utilities support for families in need.
Councillor Keith Mans, Leader of Hampshire County Council, said: “I am pleased that we are able to help families who are struggling during these difficult times. The coronavirus pandemic has meant that many people are dealing with challenges they have never had to face before. Our aim is to support those in need, particularly during the school holidays when pressures for many families are heightened, and help ensure children and young people do not go without basic necessities.”
Funding comes from more than £680,000 that has been awarded to the Authority by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) from their new COVID Local Support Grant Scheme. This follows the successful programme of supportive measures targeting vulnerable families between December 2020 and April 2021 as part of the DWP’s Winter Grant Scheme.
The food vouchers – worth £15 per child for the May Half Term week – will be offered to:
- All families whose children are eligible for free school meals
- All children open to early help services
- 16-18 year olds previously eligible for free school meals
- All 2-4 year olds accessing childcare and eligible for Early Years Pupil Premium.
Community grants totaling £112,000 will help support families, young carers and care leavers with food, energy and water bills. Voluntary and charitable organisations who understand the needs of their communities are encouraged to apply, especially those from rural areas. Examples of how these grants could be used include activity and food packs, fuel vouchers as well as food boxes.
Funds can also be used by holiday activity providers who may wish to offer children enriching activities as well as a hot meal over the half term holiday. Schools and other education settings can apply to this grant to support families who do not necessarily meet the criteria for the free school meal vouchers.
Services must meet the DWP’s COVID Local Support Grant criteria that:
- at least 80% of the total funding will be ring-fenced to support families with children, with up to 20% of the total funding allocated for other types of households, including individuals.
- at least 80% of the total funding will be ring-fenced to provide support with food, energy and water bills (including sewerage), with up to 20% made available for other essential items