Worcester MP Robin Walker has welcomed news that families that have been hardest hit by the pandemic and need extra support this winter with food and bills will benefit from a new £170 million scheme unveiled by the Government.

The Covid Winter Grant Scheme will see councils across England share £170 million in additional, ring-fenced funding to help vulnerable families and individuals, with Worcestershire receiving £1,607,260.87, which will provide certainty in planning for local councils.

This will prevent children from going hungry this winter and ensure local families get the help they need. It builds on the £63 million already provided to councils this year to assist those struggling to buy food and essentials.

A further £220 million will be invested in extending the Holiday and Food Programme until next Christmas, meaning that all children eligible for Free School Meals will have the option to join a holiday-time programme that provides healthy food and fun activities during the summer, Christmas and Easter holidays next year.

Robin has consistently supported help being delivered through councils, reaching those in most need and has been lobbying his ministerial colleagues in DEFRA, DWP and DfE to provide a solution and is pleased to see from today’s announcement of a £170 million national fund that they now have.

Worcestershire County Council has already been working together to get help to those in need through the Here2Help program and this package will enable them to provide well targeted support to children and families not only with food but holiday activities.

Commenting after the announcement of further support, Robin said:

“No child should ever go hungry, and the extra £1,607,260.87 for Worcestershire will ensure local families that need extra support with food and bills this winter can access it, which is very welcome news.”

“Crucially this support for children and families will provide a more effective and targeted package, delivered by local councils to help ensure help reaches those most needed. I have continued to lobby ministerial colleagues in DEFRA, DWP and DfE and I am pleased to see that they have provided a solution.”

“I’m also pleased that the Prime Minister has announced the extension of the Holiday Activities and Food programme, which provides healthy food and activities for children during the school holidays and has a massive impact on disadvantaged young people in our community, to cover Easter, Summer and Christmas next year.”

Commenting, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said:

“We want to make sure vulnerable people are 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 to ensure families get the help they need.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

  • Giving councils £170 million to ensure vulnerable households don’t go hungry this winter. Councils will get an extra £170 million via our Covid Winter Grant Scheme, with at least 80% of this earmarked to support hardest-hit families with the cost of food and bills. This builds on the £63 million provided to councils earlier this year to assist those struggling to afford food and essentials (DWP, Press Release, 8 November 2020, link; MHCLG, Press Release, 11 June 2020, link).
  • Extending the Holiday Activities and Food Programme until Christmas 2021 and funding food distribution charities. We’re investing £220 million – more than the existing funding allocated to the programme.  This will mean all children eligible for Free School Meals will have the option to join a holiday-time programme that provides healthy food and enriching activities during the summer, Christmas and Easter holidays. We will also boost Healthy Start payments from £3.10 to £4.25 from April 2021 and have pledged additional funding of £16m for food distribution charities.
  • Giving those who need extra support more money through the welfare system. We’ve boosted the Universal Credit standard allowance and Working Tax Credit by £1,000 per year for 12 months, part of a £9.3 billion increase to the welfare safety net. This built on the 1.7 per cent rise in the value of working age benefits that came into effect in April, benefitting around 2.5 million households. Those on low incomes required to self-isolate can also claim £500 payments, if they are unable to work from home (Hansard, 19 October 2020, vol.683, link; Independent, 2 April 2020, link; Prime Minister’s Office, Press release, 20 September 2020, link).
  • Increasing support with housing costs, so households have more money to spend on their priorities. We have increased local housing allowance rates for housing benefit and universal credit claimants to the 30th percentile of local rents, worth on average £600 per year, at a total cost of almost £1 billion. Families that are struggling to make ends meet can also access mortgage holidays and support with their council tax bills (Hansard, 11 May 2020, vol.676, link; Hansard, WA, 21 October 2020, link; MHCLG, Guidance, 24 March 2020, link).
  • Helping people with the cost of living by keeping taxes low and tackling low pay. The NLW received its largest ever cash boost in April – increasing by 6.2 per cent to £8.72. This meant an annual pay rise of £930 for a full-time worker on the NLW, and of £3,600 since its introduction in 2016. Together our changes to the NLW, income tax and NI mean the lowest-paid working full time could be £5,200 better off than 2010, in real terms (ONS, Low and high pay in the UK, 30 October 2019, link; HMT, Press release, 31 December 2019, link; HMT, Budget 2020, 12 March 2020, link).