Richard Holden, MP for North West Durham, has welcomed the Government’s new winter package that will provide support for children and families.
Under the new £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme, children and families will receive support throughout the winter and councils will receive funding to ensure that vulnerable households do not go without food or essential items.
The scheme will be run by local councils and the funding will be ring-fenced, with at least 80% earmarked to support families who are struggling to pay for food or their bills and will run to the end of March 2021. The funding will be given to councils at the beginning of December 2020. Councils will be able to directly help the most vulnerable in their local areas and will be able to provide children with food and other essential items over the holidays, whilst schools will be providing free school meals during term times.
Since 2018, the Holiday Activities and Food programme has provided healthy food and activities to disadvantaged children in pilot schemes that have been trialling across the country. Over the summer, 50,000 children were supported under this scheme. This will now be expanded across England and will cover Easter, summer and Christmas in 2021, at a cost of up to £220 million. Richard worked on the holiday activities programme when he was at the Department for Education and it is part of the Government’s long-term plan to make sure that all children have the same opportunities.
Healthy Start scheme payments will increase to £4.25 a week from April 2021. These payments mean that 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.
Commenting, Richard said:
“I really welcome this announcement – it will help the most vulnerable in society and will ensure that children across the country receive the same opportunities.
“The Holiday Activities and Food Programme is something that I worked on when I worked at the Department for Education – these policies are not knee-jerk reactions to the current situation, but they are long-term policies that have been developed over time and mean that children do not miss out on meals, educational opportunities, activities and social development during the school holidays.
“Local councils understand who needs support and are able to ensure that support is being provided to all those who need it, which is why they will distribute the funds.
“I know that this has been an incredibly difficult year for everybody, but the Government is making sure that families and children are looked after and receive all the support they need.”
You can find out full information here. Richard will continue to work with Durham County Council and his constituents to ensure that those who need support receive it. If you have any queries or concerns about this, or about other support in place during the coronavirus crisis, please get in touch with Richard's office.
You can sign up to Richard’s newsletter and hear more about the work he is doing for North West Durham here or by using the form on this page.