Help will be available over the winter for children, families in need, and individuals whose lives have been affected by COVID-19.
Oxfordshire councils have received £1.37 million from the government’s new COVID-19 Winter Grant Scheme to run local support schemes for those in greatest need.
The Winter Grant Scheme is principally aimed at families with children, assisting with the costs of food and basic living costs. There will be some additional support available for families and individuals without children.
Oxfordshire County Council is working closely with the city and district councils to identify those most in need of assistance within the rules of the scheme and the most effective ways of delivering support.
The county council will be administering a holiday-hunger scheme to support families around school holidays for those in receipt of benefits-related free school meals.
Over the Christmas, February and Easter holidays, £15 per week per child in food vouchers or equivalent support will be provided through schools for each holiday week. The county council is working in partnership with schools so that all those who may be suffering hardship can benefit from the scheme, including ensuring flexibility so that those not currently accessing free school meal, can receive the support they need.
All councils are also looking at the possibility of equivalent payments to those families with children in early years settings who are most at risk of economic hardship and with very young children or other children not in formal childcare. A scheme to support care leavers at risk of hardship is also being considered.
Provision from the voluntary sector remains vital to supporting those in need. During the autumn, Oxfordshire councils have funded community food providers, including food banks, with total grants of £250,000 to help ensure support is available when needed.
In addition, county councillors have supported community food organisations with £32,000 of Councillor Priority Funding. Oxfordshire councils will continue to work alongside the community and voluntary sector providing additional funding where it is needed.
Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said, “This Christmas will be different and difficult for every one of us, but I am determined that no resident will go without essentials. Families who are struggling because of the impact of COVID-19 will receive essential support to get them through the winter.
“Our schemes are aimed at supporting families with children, with most of the money to be spent on this group. Other households struggling directly or indirectly due to the impact of COVID-19 will also be assisted with the costs of food and other essential items.
“We know that ‘holiday hunger’ remains a serious concern for many families and we are determined to do everything we can to alleviate those worries.”
Councillor Sue Cooper, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said, “This funding is going to be crucial to ensure that our most vulnerable families have food and are able to heat their homes this winter. Our Community Hub staff are working with voluntary groups, foodbanks and others to make sure those who most need help receive it. We’ll be doing our best to ensure this money will mean no child or vulnerable person is left cold or hungry this Christmas.”