Families on low incomes, or struggling financially due to the pandemic in North Yorkshire, will receive continued support over the half-term, as the county council, schools, nurseries and colleges join forces to distribute food vouchers.
The Covid Winter Grant Scheme provides food voucher payments to ensure parents and carers hit hard by the pandemic can continue to provide the essentials, by helping meet the cost of food during the school holidays.
The scheme was rolled out successfully over Christmas, when approximately 17,000 vouchers were distributed to parents in North Yorkshire within four weeks of the national initiative being announced.
The County Council allocated more than £700,000 of funding from the scheme, to ensure children eligible for Free School Meals continued to have access to food over the Christmas holidays. The supermarket vouchers were distributed with the help of schools, academies, early years settings and post-16 colleges. The County Council also provided vouchers to care leavers.
Schools were given funding to not just those in receipt of Free School Meals, but other families who they had identified as being in need, in recognition of the fact that some families are finding themselves newly struggling as a result of the pandemic.
The County Council has also worked with academies on the initiative. Alison Woodward, Head of Riverside School in Tadcaster, part of The Star Multi Academy Trust, said: “We were very pleased to receive the details of the Covid Winter Grant scheme as we knew additional funding through the holiday periods would make a huge difference to our families.
“The voucher scheme we have opted to use within our Trust was particularly useful as it has enabled our families to balance out their budgets and make independent choices – this is really important as some families feel that they have little control over the current situation.
“We were also extremely pleased to receive some discretionary amounts for families that we work with and we know these are our more vulnerable households at this time.
“Many of these families have not had regular incomes for months, haven’t been able to work or have seen their own businesses simply fold in the lockdown periods.
“This has had a devastating impact on both the parent and children’s mental health and our pastoral teams are very busy working together with our families to support them and make sure that they have enough resources to cope, whether that be financial or emotional.
“The capacity to be able to shop and have regular food for the family has been very important and will continue to be during subsequent holiday periods while safety restrictions are in place.”
The County Council is currently allocating further grant funding to schools, academies, care leavers, nurseries and other education settings before the start of the February half-term holiday.
Cllr Patrick Mulligan, Executive Member for Education and Skills said: “The county council and schools, nurseries and colleges were able to turn this scheme around and distribute 17,000 vouchers to families in less than four weeks of the initiative being announced nationally, ensuring they received the funding to tide them over Christmas in early December.
“This was an incredible achievement and we would like to thank schools and early years’ providers for helping us distribute this financial support and for all the work they put into making sure these vouchers got to those families who needed it most.”
Any families not eligible for Free School Meals who are struggling financially can apply to the North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund, which makes emergency awards for food or utility vouchers. The County Council has increased its award entitlement for emergency provision for a temporary period to help those hit hardest by the pandemic.