Steve Brine has welcomed a comprehensive new plan to help families this Winter.
The proposals were announced to ensure children and families get extra support, with councils given new funding to ensure vulnerable households do not go hungry or without essential items.
- £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme to support children, families and the most vulnerable over winter
- Holiday Activities and Food programme to be expanded, covering Easter, Summer and Christmas in 2021
- Healthy Start payments set to rise from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from April 2021
Building on the significant support given to the most vulnerable during the pandemic, a new £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme will be run by councils in England. The funding will be ring-fenced, with at least 80% earmarked to support with food and bills, and will cover the period to the end of March 2021. Local Authorities will receive the funding at the beginning of December 2020 and Hampshire will get £2.9m.
Steve Brine MP says; "This will allow councils to directly help the hardest-hit families and individuals, as well as provide food for children who need it over the holidays. Crucially, and I raised this in the House, it will not be confined to families with school-aged children. Our local councils understand which groups need support, and are best placed to ensure appropriate holiday support is provided – which is why they will distribute the funds, rather than schools, who will continue providing meals for disadvantaged children during term-time.
"I said last month when this row erupted around October half-term that Ministers need to come up with a comprehensive set of proposals and I know they have been working on this for some time. What's been announced here is significantly more than a single use voucher for school-age children only during one half-term.
"I dearly wish it had been ready for last month and we took a lot of flak for that but we can now move forward with something comprehensive and robust, designed locally to help the families who most in need. Alongside other local MPs I have already discussed roll-out with Hampshire County Council."
The Holiday Activities and Food programme, which has provided healthy food and enriching activities to disadvantaged children since 2018, will also be expanded across England next year.
It will cover Easter, Summer and Christmas in 2021, and cost up to £220m. It will be available to children in every local authority in England, building on previous programmes – including this summers, which supported around 50,000 children across 17 local authorities.
Healthy Start scheme payments are also set to increase from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from next April, 2021. This scheme supports 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. This will help people boost the long-term health of their children.
The Government has also pledged additional funding of £16m for food distribution charities, with conversations with FareShare and others ongoing as to how this is allocated.
Steve Brine added that is his in discussions with constituency headteachers to roll out a dedicated survey he is undertaking among families in receipt of free school meals. He adds; "These proposals are welcome but I am determined to discuss them directly with families in receipt of free school meals, not to those who speak for them, because it was striking how their voice was almost completely absent on my inbox and that’s not right.
Pictured/watch: Steve Brine's exchange with Work & Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey and listening to the debate in the House on 9th November 2020.
More information ...