The initiative, which will be delivered in partnership with the county’s education providers, aims to help those facing hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic and is being funded from the £2.89 million Winter Grant Scheme, awarded to the Authority by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), as part of a planned programme of supportive measures over winter.
Councillor Patricia Stallard, the County Council’s Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services and Young People, said: “By introducing a food voucher scheme, we aim to ensure that no Hampshire child goes hungry over the Christmas and New Year holidays. The vouchers will be available to:
* All families whose children are eligible for free school meals
* Children being supported by a social worker
* Children receiving early help services from the County Council’s Family Support Service
* 2-4 year olds accessing childcare and eligible for Early Years Pupil Premium, or
* 16-18 year olds who were previously eligible for free school meals.
“I am also pleased that we have sufficient funding to provide vouchers to our care leavers and young carers.”
Nurseries, pre-schools, childminders, schools and colleges will be the distributors of the vouchers. Each household will receive a voucher per child worth £15 per week which can be used at a range of supermarkets. The scheme will help feed over 34,000 children in Hampshire.
Additionally, the County Council is providing schools and colleges with a discretionary grant fund. These grants will help support families who may not be immediately eligible for the voucher scheme but find themselves struggling financially; for example, where a parent has lost their job due to COVID-19. Schools can use these grants to help families with food and other essential items, such as energy cards/tokens to pay fuel bills.
Councillor Patricia Stallard added: “I would like to thank all our education providers for helping us to reach those in need of this support. They know their children, young people and families best so are far better placed to distribute the vouchers. With their assistance, we can help to ensure that vulnerable children don’t go without necessities like food and heating over the winter.”
Families who may be facing financial difficulties this Christmas are encouraged to speak to their early years or childcare provider, school or college in the strictest of confidence.