A £1.4 million scheme to provide food and support to families is being launched in North Yorkshire to help those hardest hit by the pandemic.

As we head into winter, North Yorkshire County Council has put together an additional raft of measures to support families and vulnerable groups affected by the pandemic.

It will include an extensive food voucher scheme to ensure children eligible for Free School Meals will continue to have access to meals over the Christmas holidays and into the next year.

And the County Council has decided to broaden the scheme to also include other children and families in North Yorkshire who may be struggling, including children in early years provision and those in post-16 education.

The value of the supermarket vouchers will be £20 per child, per week for families in North Yorkshire.

The funding comes from the Government’s £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme and will be administered by the County Council, who will be allocating schools, including academies, with grants for supermarket vouchers for eligible children.

The Government’s Covid Winter Grant Scheme runs from November until March 2021 and the large majority of this funding (80%) is ring-fenced to provide the hardest hit families with financial support, and specifically provide food for children who need it over the holidays.

Cllr Patrick Mulligan, Executive Member for Education and Skills said:

“We know the pandemic has impacted many businesses and jobs in North Yorkshire and many families need some additional help in getting through the coming months.

“The scheme will provide help for children on Free School Meals over the holidays, but will also help other families in North Yorkshire struggling to cover the cost of food and essential utilities.

“Schools are in a unique position to be able to identify which children are in need of support and where there are families struggling, so we will be giving them the discretion to allocate the supermarket vouchers to those most in need.

“We will be setting the value of the vouchers per child, per week, at an above average rate to ensure everyone’s needs are met.”

The County Council will begin distributing the grant funding to schools over the coming weeks.

Other council support for people currently struggling in North Yorkshire includes the 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, using one-off funding from the Government.

Council leader, Cllr Carl Les said:

“This will be just part of a wider winter support package for families with children.

“The pandemic has changed every aspect of life as we know it over the best part of a year. We know many people have seen their incomes fall, and as we head into Christmas and winter, people are concerned about feeding their families.

“We have additional funding from the Department for Education to expand our holiday activities and food programmes in school and increased funding from the Department for Food and Rural Affairs to provide further aid to local charities. The value of Health Start programme vouchers has also been increased for families on low incomes with children under the age of four, for the purchase of milk, vegetables, formula milk and vitamins.

“As a council, we are also increasing support to foodbanks and support networks such as Citizen’s Advice to help people get through the remainder of the pandemic.”

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