Financed by the £7 million Household Support Fund, awarded to the Authority by the Department for Work and Pensions, the new measures target families and individuals on low incomes and is part of a nationwide effort to recover, following the pandemic.
Councillor Roz Chadd, the Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, said: “I am delighted to agree this package of measures on behalf of the County Council. The last couple of years have been tough with exceptional challenges for everyone but there are many people for whom it has been especially difficult. Some of our Hampshire residents on low incomes are struggling to pay for essentials like their food, keeping themselves and their homes warm and covering the cost of utilities. With this new funding we can support a range of schemes that offer a helping hand to people in need and, in doing so, build resilience in our communities.”
At least 50% of the total funding will go towards families with children, with the remaining funding allocated for other vulnerable households, including individuals such as care leavers. The schemes will be delivered across the county through ‘connect4communities’ and will include:
- Food vouchers provided to eligible children and young people through schools, colleges and early years settings;
- Funding to support existing food pantries and setting up new community pantries in areas of need;
- Support for care leavers and other vulnerable groups with food and fuel bills via social care teams and frontline services;
- Grants for community and voluntary organisations to help meet the needs within their local communities;
- Funding for Citizens Advice to provide assistance with fuel and utility bills;
- Exceptional housing support to be made available through District and Borough Councils
Food and Fuel Vouchers
Schools, colleges and early years settings provided food vouchers of up to £15 per child per week over October half term and will also cover the Christmas holiday and February half term.
These vouchers are for children eligible for benefits related free school meals (FSM), children with a social worker or open to early help, 16–18-year-olds previously eligible for free school meals and 2–4-year-olds accessing childcare and eligible for Early Years Pupil Premium. The £15 voucher can be used in supermarkets or at one of sixteen community pantries across Hampshire where they can get £45 worth of food.
A food and fuel voucher worth £50 each will be made available to care leavers in need who are not covered by the extended free school meal provision.
Community pantries offer a range of fresh, frozen and general foods at a lower cost than at the supermarket, on a weekly basis. They also provide access to important services such as help with budgeting and cooking skills. Funding will be allocated to existing pantries so they can extend and enhance their offer and reach, it will also be used to set up new pantries where needed. Food and fuel vouchers as well as slow cookers will be available from pantries as well as early help hubs.
Helping community and voluntary organisations give local support
Other support to be provided by the initiative includes grants for community and voluntary organisations, such as Citizen’s Advice. Community organisations can apply for grants that will support initiatives that help people in need with food and fuel. This can range from learning to cook healthy and nutritious meals on a budget or with slow cookers, or activities around food preparation that involve the whole family.
An example of a scheme that aims to keep people warm would be a Community Swap Shop sourcing essential items such as warm clothing and bedding. Further funding will be allocated to specific initiatives such as Holiday and Food projects that provide cookery and food support to families during school holidays as well as projects aimed at supporting those in work on low incomes.
In exceptional circumstances, help will be made available for housing costs where it cannot be met by existing schemes such as Discretionary Housing Payments. This will be accessible via Hampshire’s District and Borough Councils.
Councillor Chadd added: “This extra support is not only for households who receive benefits but also for anyone on a low income who is struggling financially. If your energy costs are a high proportion of your income, for example, you might be eligible for help. I would urge anyone who is unsure if they can get support to contact connect4communities by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting the website, or contact their local Citizen’s Advice or search the Family Information and Services Hub.”
Voluntary and third sector organisations, who know their communities best and are in the ideal position to provide support, are encouraged to apply for grants via the website from Monday 29 November: connect4communities.org