Wokingham Borough Council unanimously approves more than £205,000 in support for residents struggling to feed themselves and their families and to afford fuel to heat their homes. At a special meeting of its executive committee last week (2 December), the council approved £100,000 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 were in our care but have recently left our care (care leavers) and the remaining funds to support other families and individuals who are struggling due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cllr John Kaiser, deputy leader of the council, said: “No family or individual in our borough should have to go hungry or be cold this winter. We know how difficult this year has been for so many of our residents and we are here to help. This is a key part of our ‘Wrapped In Care’ campaign that also includes a digital inclusion scheme launching next week to help residents who are not online get connected. ”
The council has been awarded £208,703 of the £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme announced 8 November. Half of the grant has been allocated to support the more than 2,100 children and young people in the borough who receive benefits related free school meals. Each family will receive £15 of food and grocery vouchers per child per week to provide additional support during the Christmas and February half term holidays.
£5,000 of the grant has been allocated to support vulnerable care leavers up to age 25, who will receive funds to ensure they can meet food and utility costs over the winter months. Initially, 75 care leavers will receive support, with more provided to those in need who leave our care in the coming weeks.
The remaining £100,000 of the grant will be used to support families and individuals who are struggling due to the Covid-19 pandemic. All residents in Wokingham borough are eligible to apply for the programme, which runs until 31 March next year, 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: “We are so happy to have this new grant programme to support our most vulnerable families and individuals. No child in the borough should go cold or hungry and this grant will help make sure of that. This allows us to continue free school meals during the Christmas and February half term holidays, supports our care leavers with food and utility costs, and helps our most vulnerable residents in the ways they need. This has been a difficult year for all of us, and we need to support those most in need.”
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 or by visiting www.citizensadvicewokingham.org.uk and mention the Covid Winter Grant scheme. 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. Support will be provided from 14 December, but residents who are struggling can contact the One Front Door prior to this date to express an interest in the grant.
Residents in need can also be signposted or supported to apply for the scheme or a representative can apply on their behalf. A resident or their representative will be able to apply for support from the scheme multiples times over the winter if the need arises. The council will be working closely with frontline staff at the council, partners, and the voluntary sector to ensure that all families and individuals get the help they need.