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Vulnerable Families: Winter Support

Volume 685: debated on Monday 30 November 2020

What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to help vulnerable families with the cost of food and bills in winter 2020-21. (909447)

What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to help vulnerable families with the cost of food and bills in winter 2020-21. (909452)

Earlier this month, I announced the £170 million covid winter grant scheme to help disadvantaged people, particularly children, through the challenging winter months ahead, with food and essential utility bills over Christmas through to the end of March. The first half of funding for the scheme will reach local authorities in England this week. I am delighted to say that Nottinghamshire has been allocated £2.3 million and South Gloucestershire £569,000.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is hugely important for the most vulnerable children—those whose welfare we know is a source of worry for their teachers when they do not see them for weeks—that we can offer the best possible help in the holidays, with proper structured and face-to-face support for those children and their families such as that offered through our holiday activity clubs?

I agree with my hon. Friend and he looks ready and dressed to support a holiday activity fund when the opportunity comes along. Maintaining that important link over the longer holidays can be transformative for children’s health and educational prospects, which is why I was proud to announce earlier this month the £220 million expansion of the programme for the longer school holidays right throughout 2021. This will offer enriching activities such as arts and sports, which will help them to perform better in school, as well as a free nutritious meal while they are there.

I welcome the announcement of the additional winter support funding across South Gloucestershire, which will benefit lots of my constituents, but can my right hon. Friend assure me that this additional funding will be spent efficiently by the councils and go to the people who need it?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to stress that point. As I have already indicated, his council will receive just over half a million pounds. The grant has come with conditions to ensure that the money is targeted towards the most disadvantaged people, and councils will be expected to report on that. They have a wide range of information to help them, including access to who is on benefits and other elements, to ensure that they reach people who really are disadvantaged at this time of year.