A multi-million-pound national support scheme to offer children, families and vulnerable individuals during the winter months has been welcomed by Island MP Bob Seely.
The Island will receive £456,845, going directly to Island families.
The Covid Winter Grant Scheme - worth £170m – will help families with food costs, heat homes and pay the bills as the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic hits. It is designed to complement the Free School Meals programme, following the campaign from footballer Marcus Rashford.
Mr Seely said: “It is the right thing to do. This package of practical measures complements and improves on the important Free School Meals programme by taking a long-term approach to tackling poor health, hunger and education. For us here, that’s an additional £456,845 going to Island families.
“The funding – to be distributed by local councils - will be ring-fenced, with at least 80% earmarked to support with food and bills providing food for children who need it over the holidays.”
The Government’s scheme will allow councils to help the hardest-hit families and individuals, as well as provide food for children who need it over the holidays.
Mr Seely said: “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. Schools will continue providing meals for disadvantaged children during term-time.”
The Isle of Wight Council will receive its share in December.
Alongside its winter support scheme, the government has also announced it will expand the Holiday Activities and Food programme – investing £220m – to provide healthy food and enriching activities to disadvantaged children.
It has also promised to increase Healthy Start scheme payments from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from April 2021 to support 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.
Mr Seely said: “This support will be in place throughout some of the most challenging months ahead when people will most need it, not just for a couple of weeks.
“This additional help, combined with the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of March and a range of other support measures, will make a huge difference to those who are struggling at this time.”
Council Leader Dave Stewart said: “I am extremely encouraged that the Government has come forward to confirm they will be ensuring all qualifying children receive the support of free meals over Christmas and also other holidays in the new year.
“This is good news for the Island as we have many youngsters who will benefit from this additional provision and I am grateful that our MP Bob Seely has offered his support to this programme. It means no Island child should go hungry this Christmas.”
The Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: “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.”
Ministers have also taken 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.
- 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
- Increasing Universal Credit and Tax Credits by up to £20 a week this year
- £63m for councils to provide emergency assistance to families, pensioners and the most vulnerable with food, essentials and meals
- Extending free school meals support to those eligible when schools closed during lockdown
- 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