Extension of the COVID Winter Grant Scheme
21 EXTENSION OF THE COVID WINTER GRANT SCHEME (CWGS) - The Directors: Learning, Skills and Culture and Children and Community Resilience submitted a joint report seeking approval to extend the Covid Winter Grant Scheme provision up to and through the Easter Holiday 2021.
The council recognised the impact that COVID-19 has had on families in many different ways and had in place a range of financial support mechanisms for households on low incomes. This included administering grants such as Council Tax COVID-19 hardship discount, emergency financial assistance and the self-isolation grant.
During the past year decisions had been made to support children and families by offering Free School Meals. The offer of free school meals within the CWGS came to an end on 31 March 2021.
The national Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) scheme would cover all areas of England from 1 April 2021. The intent was that children eligible for free school meals would be able to take part in an offer of funded activities that included a nutritious meal. The HAF offer would provide the equivalent of one week’s worth of activities in each of the Easter and Christmas holidays, and four weeks during the schools’ summer holiday. Due to COVID restrictions, it was likely that the vast majority of the Easter 2021 offer would be limited to remote activities.
There were currently almost 6,000 North Lincolnshire children eligible for free school meals. The national CWGS provided supermarket vouchers equivalent to £15 a week during Christmas and February school holidays. There were also over 600 children and families that had benefited from the CWGS. To continue the level of this support by extending the wider hardship fund would amount to £250k including cost of administration of the scheme. The cost of this was currently not budgeted within council or school budgets, nor was there a specific government grant. The government had indicated that councils may utilise their allocations for COVID-19 emergency grant for locally determined responses.
Enabling children and young people families to access the CWGS fund recognised the exceptional circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic had created for some families. As a one-off response the cost would be identified as part of the council’s overall COVID-19 additional cost pressures, funded by the government grant for COVID-19.
Resolved – That the proposal to extend the Covid Winter Grant Scheme up to and including to the Easter Holidays be approved.