Hertfordshire County Council WILL issue vouchers for struggling families at half-term
Eligible families will be sent a voucher code directly by email
Struggling Hertfordshire families with children WILL be eligible for additional financial support from the county council over the upcoming school holidays.
With rises in unemployment, increases in fuel costs and changes to Universal Credit the number of families facing financial uncertainty in the county has increased.
The number of people claiming unemployment benefits has more than doubled since the start of the pandemic.
And over the past year the number of families eligible for free school meals has increased by more than 12 per cent – to 27,003.
In recent months (since Christmas 2020) the county council has made vouchers available to families eligible for free school meals during the holidays.
That support had been expected to end with the end of the summer holidays.
But now the county council is drawing-up plans to extend the voucher scheme until January – after being awarded £6.172million from the government’s ‘household support fund’.
The support for families eligible for free school meals during the holidays is just one of a number of ways that the £6million will be used in the county, between now and March next year.
And leader of the county council Cllr Richard Roberts said: “I am delighted that the government wants to support families like this.
“It is one-off funding, so it’s not guaranteed for the future – but it will be so welcome for those families that qualify for it.”
Cllr Roberts acknowledges that during the pandemic the number of children in Hertfordshire living in poverty has increased by 13 per cent.
And he says the package of measures – of which the holiday support will be just one – will be a ‘backstop’.
“I think those families that were struggling coming in to the covid pandemic are probably going to be struggling – and I think this is really valuable support,” he said.
“I think for some families it could be the difference between coping and not coping.”
Cllr Roberts says it will build on the £180m already spent by the county council in supporting families in the county.
And with the additional £6m, he says: “We can do an awful lot with this scale of funding – working with the districts and borough partners.”
So far, county council officials have committed to making the holiday voucher support available during the autumn half-term and Christmas holidays.
And they say eligible families will be sent a voucher code directly by email – with no need to sign up’.
Nationally £500m is being made available by the government to councils through the ‘household support fund’.
The fund is available for use over the ‘winter’ – and is designed to help households in the most need with grants for items such as food, clothing and utilities.
Commenting on the fund, Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has said: “Over the last year, we have helped millions of people provide for their families.
“Many are now back on their feet but we know that some may still need further support.
“Our targeted Household Support Fund is here to help those vulnerable households with essential costs as we push through the last stages of our recovery from the pandemic.”
And Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak said: “Everyone should be able to afford the essentials, and we are committed to ensuring that is the case.
“Our new Household Support Fund will provide a lifeline for those at risk of struggling to keep up with their bills over the winter, adding to the support the government is already providing to help people with the cost of living.”