A new Government backed scheme aimed at supporting the most vulnerable families with children and individuals will begin operating in the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead in December.
The scheme, which runs from 1 December 2020 to the 31 March 2021 and includes the Easter school holidays, provides more than £200,000 in new funding for the council to build upon the support already provided during the pandemic.
Most of the money will be used to provide vouchers for food to cover the Christmas, half-term and Easter school holidays for those children in the borough who qualify for free school meals.
In addition, the council is making a proportion of this fund available to local foodbanks and other voluntary and community groups to help their efforts to get more support to vulnerable families and individuals in the borough.
Councillor Stuart Carroll, cabinet member for adult social care, children’s services, health and mental health, said: “This new funding is a welcome boost to support those who need our help the most, and help has never been more needed than it is now.
“The council is the organisation that’s best placed to coordinate local efforts to ensure the appropriate winter support is provided. We will be working with schools, colleges and nurseries, along with charities, voluntary groups and local health and social care practitioners to identify those most in need this winter.
“By working with local partners, we will be able to directly help the hardest-hit families and individuals in the borough, as well as provide food for children who need it over the school holidays.
“We are pleased to have received this extra Government funding, which will be focused on our most vulnerable residents. We will continue to work with Government to outline the future funding needs given the severe impact of this awful pandemic”.
Alison Fox, headteacher at Wraysbury Primary School, said: “Over the last term we have seen the number of families facing hardship increase by at least 100%.
“The winter funding will help our families to provide food for the children over the school holidays and into next year, especially when they may not be able to visit relatives or extended families for shared meals.
“This extra support will free up funds for those families who are most in need, which they can use to pay their bills and enjoy their Christmas without added pressure on their mental health and wellbeing. The council is doing a fantastic job in ensuring that schools and other groups are able to pinpoint who needs the help and support, and they’ve been steadfast in ensuring that the support is available.”
To support families during the school holidays, school aged children who are already signed up to the free school meals programme due to low income, will automatically be signed up to receive this additional benefit. Voucher codes which can be converted to a voucher for a food retailer of their choice, will be issued through the child’s school.
Those families who quality for free school meals, but who haven’t yet signed up, can do so through their school in order to receive the additional vouchers, along with the normal free school meal entitlement. For every qualifying child who signs up to the free school meal scheme, the school will receive additional resources to support them.
Individuals or families with pre-school aged children who qualify for low-income support for childcare, will also automatically be signed up to the scheme by the council. Voucher codes, which can be converted to a voucher for a food retailer of their choice, will be issued by Edenred, the same supplier that was used to distribute vouchers nationally earlier in the pandemic.
Young people aged between 16 and 18 (on 31 March 2021), who are in education and are eligible to receive the vouchers, will receive a voucher code from their school, sixth form or college. The council is aware of young people who aren’t currently in education but qualify for the voucher, and codes will be issued to them via their contact within the education service.
Residents who are unsure of whether their child(ren) qualifies for the food voucher scheme are asked to check with their school or education provider directly.
What the scheme means is that over the Christmas holidays, each child who qualifies for the scheme will receive a £30 voucher for a food retailer or their choice. By providing vouchers for food, we will ensure children have access to food and be able to help those families and individuals that are most in need to free up some of their household budget for other winter essentials, such as utility bills and warm winter clothing.
To find out more information about the new winter support scheme, please visit our winter support page on our website, or email email@example.com.
If you are struggling to provide food for yourself or your family, please make sure that you are claiming all the benefits you are entitled to. You can find a list of potential support available on the council tax and benefits page on our website.
If you are still unsure about where to turn, you can contact the COVID community helpline by calling 01628 683820 or 0203 5148117.