Disadvantaged children and hard-hit families in Wirral are set to benefit from two new programmes that target support at those most in need, following the latest campaign by Marcus Rashford.
Wirral Council should receive its share of a new £170m Covid Winter Grant within the next three weeks – and 80% must be used to support households with the cost of food and bills up to March 2021.
The money will allow specialist organisations in Wirral to directly help the hardest-hit families and individuals, as well as provide food for children who need it over the holidays.
It follows an extra £453,000 given to Wirral Council in July from the emergency assistance grant for food and essential supplies for struggling families.
Meanwhile, the Holiday Activities and Food programme, which has been running in Wirral and 16 other councils since 2018 supporting 50,000 children, will be expanded to cover all parts of England.
The programme has seen healthy food and activities provided to disadvantaged children and, in Wirral, Halton and Cheshire West it has been delivered by specialist schools provider Edsential.
It will cover school holidays at Easter, Summer and Christmas 2021, and cost up to £220m.
Councillor Wendy Clements, Chair of Wirral’s Children, Young People and Education Committee, said: “These two programmes will help us to make sure we provide the help and support to those most in need in Wirral, without adding extra pressures onto schools.”
Councillor Clements who, during the recent school half term, met with Feeding Britain – set up by former Birkenhead MP, Frank Field – added: “While Universal Credit has been increased by £1,000, and other support provided as well, we know that the best way to reach the children and families is through local specialist organisations who are known and trusted and who, in turn, know their communities.
The Holiday Activities and Food programme has already been a success in Wirral and I’m delighted it’s being rolled out across the country. For many of our most vulnerable children, learning loss over summer accounts for almost two-thirds of the gap between the richest and the poorest children by the time they reach 14.
By keeping children active, and interested in the summer months, we will be able to help more to reach their full potential.
Councillor Clements has asked the Council’s Director of Children’s Services, Paul Boyce, to ensure that specialist local organisations are involved in the planning and delivery of the support to Wirral families.
Work and Pensions Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, added: "We want to make sure vulnerable people feel cared for throughout this difficult time and, above all, no one should go hungry or be unable to pay their bills this winter.
We know this has been a challenging time for many, and we have consistently supported the lowest-paid families, protecting 9 million jobs with furlough and boosting welfare support by £9.3 billion.
This package builds on that support, and by extending our successful Holiday Activities and Food programme, as well as funding a £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme, we are making sure families get the help they need.
Nationally, people have been helped with unprecedented measures during the pandemic to protect the most vulnerable, and put in place a strong package of financial support to support families and children, including:
- Protecting millions of jobs and livelihoods through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, which have been extended until March 2021
- Increasing Universal Credit and Tax Credits by up to £1,000 this year
- £63m for councils to provide emergency assistance to families, pensioners and the most vulnerable with food, essentials and meals
- Increasing Local Housing Allowance rates for Universal Credit and housing benefit claimants, so it covers the lowest 30% of local rents – benefiting over 1 million households by on average £600 this year.
- Local authorities understand which groups need support, and are best placed to ensure appropriate holiday support is provided – which is why the £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme will be distributed by them, rather than schools, who will continue providing meals disadvantaged children during term-time.