Extra funding worth more than £1 million has been awarded to the ‘connect4communities’ programme – an initiative developed by Hampshire County Council in collaboration with partners – to help ensure that no child goes hungry during the 2-16 April Easter school holiday
The additional resource has been awarded to the Authority by the Department for Work and Pensions as part of their extended Winter Grant Scheme. The scheme, launched in December, involved a series of supportive measures that targeted vulnerable households, especially those with children, over the winter and beyond. The extended programme means that similar supportive measures will also be available to families in need during the Easter end-of-term break.
Councillor Patricia Stallard, the County Council’s Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services and Young People said: “I am delighted that we are able to provide this extra help for families who are facing hardship because of the ongoing pandemic. Some people in our communities have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 crisis and have been unable to afford basics like food and fuel. This extra money means we can once again offer help and support, such as Free School Meal vouchers to children and young people in need, while they are on holiday for Easter.”
The scheme will be delivered across the county in collaboration with organisations such schools, early years providers and voluntary groups, and will include:
• Food vouchers
• Discretionary grants that schools and early years providers will allocate
• Vouchers and slow cookers for Community Pantries to distribute
• Financial support for fuel bills, available via Citizens Advice
• Community grants to supporting organisations that provide direct help to vulnerable households
Nurseries, pre-schools, childminders, schools and colleges will distribute the food vouchers, which will help feed children and young people including young carers and care leavers, over the Easter fortnight. Each household will receive a voucher per child worth £24 for the holiday period, which can be used at a range of supermarkets. The scheme will help feed over 34,000 children in Hampshire.
Schools and early years providers will have access to funding for discretionary grants to help families who may not be immediately eligible for the free food vouchers but find themselves struggling financially; for example, where a parent has lost their job due to COVID-19. They can be used for essential items such as warm clothing and bedding.
Vouchers and slow cookers for Community Pantries
During the first wave of the scheme, ‘connect4communities’ used some of the funding to establish a Community Pantry in each of the 11 districts in the Hampshire County Council local authority area. Funding was also used to supply slow cookers to households who do not have basic cooking facilities. Going forward, the community pantries are now in the ideal position to distribute slow cookers to those who need them.
Vouchers/payment cards for fuel
Citizen’s Advice, who provided financial support to people struggling to pay bills throughout the winter, will be funded to continue this offer throughout the Easter school holiday.
Resource will be allocated to the Community Grant scheme as well, which means voluntary, charity and local organisations can apply for grants to support their local communities. Applications should be made via the website at connect4communities.org