As part of the government’s Winter Grant Scheme, which launched in December 2020 to help cover food and energy costs, supermarket vouchers to the value of £15 per week per child have been provided to 6,731 children across the borough during the Christmas and February half-term holidays, which will be extended over the Easter holiday period.
In total, this will mean approximately 168,000 meals will have been provided.
Provision is also being put in place locally to support families eligible for free school meals during the Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays breaks this year through a Holiday Activities and Food programme, with the aim of encouraging children to eat more healthily and be active over the school holidays.
Last year’s programme supported more than 2,700 people who accessed 91 activities on offer across the borough, with 2,053 meals distributed to children in attendance.
Meanwhile, around 3,500 households in receipt of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme or Housing Benefit will receive a cash payment of £100 to help with their winter energy costs, with targeted support in place for vulnerable residents such as the homeless.
The scheme was originally due to end this month (March) but has been extended until 16 April, with St Helens Borough Council receiving an additional £249,00 on top of its previously allocated £716,000 to continue providing support for those in need.
Labour Councillor Kate Groucutt Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Business, said:
“This past year has been extremely tough for everyone but unfortunately there are many in our Borough experiencing extreme financial hardship, and making the heartbreaking decision about whether to buy food or heat their home during the winter months. I’m pleased the council has been given this funding which will help ease the pressure for some.
“St Helens has long been known as a borough that pulls together when times are hard to look after our own, and this has never been clearer than during the past year when the #StHelensTogether approach has really shone through.
“The effort from everyone, including council officers, schools, community groups, housing providers, charities and volunteers to make sure our most vulnerable residents are supported through this pandemic has been inspiring. We intend to build on this as we recover from COVID and redouble our efforts to tackle the poverty, ill health and loneliness that are still too prevalent in our community.”
Eligible families do not need to apply for this financial support – they will receive it automatically.