Covid grant scheme for vulnerable households extended
The £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme was initially set up to support children, families and the most vulnerable over winter, aiming to tackle poor health, hunger and education. Prime minister Boris Johnson launched the scheme in November after being shamed about free school meals and child poverty by footballer Marcus Rashford.
The scheme was due to run until 31 March and but was then extended until 16 April. It will now end on 20 June, the day before most lockdown restrictions in England are due to be lifted.
Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey announced the £40m extension of the scheme which is administered by local councils. Coffey told MPs the move was in recognition that “some restrictions on the economy continue”.
She said: “The initial scheme was issued at £170m and was due to conclude at the end of March 2021. In the first two months of the scheme, covering December 2020 and January 2021, local authorities spent over £86m, with 94% awarded to support families with children and 96% used on the provision of food and support with utility bills.
“In the same period, nearly 2.4 million awards had been made to vulnerable households through the scheme.”
Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s resources board, said: “This further funding will help councils to continue to provide much-needed support to low income households at risk of poverty and financial hardship as the government continues its gradual easing of the coronavirus measures. Councils will, for example, be able to provide further targeted support to families entitled to free school meals during the May holiday period.
“To ensure that we are able to best address the underlying drivers of disadvantage and break cycles of poverty in the longer term, the LGA is discussing with government and partners how best to enable councils to provide integrated, preventative support to low-income households.”