Wokingham Borough Council has helped 120 individuals and families who are struggling this winter because of the covid pandemic to access food, fuel and other essentials. The council has distributed approximately half of the £100,000 available in the Covid Winter Grant to help any individual or family in need.
In December Wokingham Borough Council approved how the £205,000 Winter Grant Fund would be used to support residents struggling to feed themselves and their families and to afford fuel to heat their homes over the winter months. Approximately £100,000 of the funding was allocated for food vouchers for children who receive benefits-related free school meals during the Christmas holidays and February half term; £5,000 for food and utilities for young adults who recently left our care (care leavers); and the remaining funds were allocated to support other families and individuals who are struggling due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cllr John Kaiser, deputy leader of the council, said: “This is one of the most important tools we have this winter to help our residents – no family or individual in our borough should go hungry or be cold this winter. This has been a difficult year for all of us, but for those with financial difficulties the stresses must be unbearable. We are here to help.”
A Wokingham borough resident who has been helped by the grant said: “I really appreciate the help in such difficult times. I am so lucky to have support from Citizens Advice and Wokingham Council and I really could not fault their service. The Winter Grant scheme has benefited me and my children so much and I honestly don't know what I would have done without it.”
Another resident said: “[The One Front Door] was so helpful and listened to our concerns and [was] very compassionate regarding our situation. This grant will really help us keep out of the red in these next coming months and help us provide meals for our children without worrying when I can go shopping again. I can't explain how helpful this is to us. Thank you again.”
All residents in Wokingham borough are eligible to apply for the programme which runs until 31 March for support to help pay for food and utility bills, but can also apply to other essentials such as sanitary products, warm clothing, blankets and boiler service/repair. The programme does not cover rent or mortgage payments.
Cllr UllaKarin Clark, executive member for children’s services, said: “The Covid Winter Grant provides support to our most vulnerable families and individuals. It allowed us to provide free schools meals during the Christmas holiday and will do the same for the upcoming February half term. It also supports our young care leavers with food and utility costs, and helps our most vulnerable residents in the ways they need.
“We feel so strongly that all children should have access to free school meals that we’ve written to the secretary of state for education, Gavin Williamson, asking him to consider extending the temporary expansion of the programme to give all primary school children free school meals. Feeding our young people should be our number one priority. No child in the borough should go cold or hungry and this grant is helping make sure of that. This has been a difficult year for all of us, and we need to support those most in need.”
“The Covid Winter Grant runs until the end of March, but we have agreed to fund free school meals for school holidays for the rest of this year, using a combination of government funding and council funds.”
How to apply
To apply, residents should contact the Wokingham Borough Community Response’s One Front Door, run by Citizens Advice Wokingham by calling 0300 330 1189 and mentioning the Covid Winter Grant or by visiting https://citizensadvicewokingham.org.uk/coronavirus/. The One Front Door will assess the resident’s needs and where appropriate make a recommendation to the council for funding from the Covid Winter Grant scheme.
Residents in need can also be signposted or supported to apply for the scheme or a representative can apply on their behalf.