Protective winter blanket of support for residents worst hit by pandemic
Essex County Council is wrapping a protective blanket around the most vulnerable this winter, providing warmth, food, emergency grants and support to residents hit by the pandemic.
A government winter grant of £3.8m is being added to £2.4m existing funding to see struggling families and adults through Christmas and the dark days of winter.
The blanket £6.2m package for December to March 2021 recognises the many ways the pandemic has affected people. It includes:
- Free school meals vouchers for all eligible children through the Christmas and half-term school holidays
- Winter warmth packages for vulnerable adults leaving hospital
- Emergency grants for food, heating, energy and water bills and essential household goods for people struggling to pay bills
- Home-Start packages for parents of 0-5 year old children, targeted at the most deprived wards across the county
- Support for carers and people with learning disabilities
- Christmas food and gift hampers for care leavers
- Grants for local community food initiatives nominated by local Essex County Councillors.
The package also provides funding to increase capacity and resource for food banks and food delivery projects, housing and debt advice, mental health, domestic abuse and drug and alcohol support. Both holiday hunger and activity programmes are set to be expanded further to reach even more vulnerable children and support their families.
In addition, an offer for school children during the Easter, Summer, and Christmas 2021 holidays is currently being developed and details will follow.
Cllr Louise McKinlay, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Essex County Council, said, “Winter can be tough at the best of times and every penny counts for families at Christmas. Clearly, this year more than ever, people are struggling financially or emotionally due to the pandemic. So, we are using all the resources we can to put a protective blanket of winter support around those families who need it most.
“The whole council is behind this effort to support those who are struggling this winter, with help to heat their home, put food on the table and assist with key bills. We will do all we can for our vulnerable families.”
Our website has more information about how to access support during the pandemic.
For information, The Government’s £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme (CWGS) provides grants to county and unitary authorities in England (under S31 of the Local Government Act 2003). Essex has been granted £3.8m. The funding is ring-fenced to support those most in need with the cost of food, energy and water bills and other associated costs.
At least 80% of the CWGS funding will be ring-fenced to support families with children, with up to 20% of the total funding to other types of households, including individuals.
At least 80% of the CWGS funding will be ring-fenced to provide support with food, energy and water bills (including sewerage), with up to 20% on other items.
Essex had already identified £2.4m of government funding received after moving to high covid alert level in October, to provide some of the support now covered by the CWGS. Funds replaced by the CWGS will be used to expand support in other ways, for instance, providing places for more children at school holiday hunger activities and increasing capacity at Citizens Advice, mental health and domestic abuse services.
A formal decision about delivery of free school meals will be made next week.
Note some elements of this package were announced on 5 November, as part of the plan to spend the £2.4m. £3.83m is new money.
Winter Support Funding Analysis in £s
Free School Meals - £2,175,000
Holiday Hunger initiatives and targeted activities for vulnerable children - £580,250
Essential Living Fund (food, fuel, household goods, clothes) - £500,000
Mental Health Funding (support for adults and children) - £360,000
Food delivery projects including food banks - £280,000
Support for carers, Learning Disability support and resilience programmes - £267,500
Support for those needing to isolate (carers / learning disabilities)- £180,000
Alcohol & Substance misuse - £180,000
Councillor Community Initiative Food Fund - £150,000
Administration Costs - £150,000
Winter warmth / adaptations - £147,500
Essex Welfare Service - £143,000
Grassroots clubs and activities (Devolved to cities, boroughs and districts for determination and administration) - £134,500
Homestart (focus on families in need with children aged 0-5yrs in most deprived wards across the county) - £100,000
Citizens Advice - grant to provide debt and housing advice - £65,000
Care Leavers Christmas food and supplies hampers - £23,250
Domestic Abuse support - £15,000
For determination in January 2021 - £778,300
Total Allocation - £6,229,300