Yesterday I raised with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions the need for the newly announced £170 million Covid Winter Support grant scheme to be easy to access for those who need the support the most and that work must start now to ensure this is the case.
I welcome the fact that the Government are providing £170 million to local councils from the start of next month until March to provide targeted support to the children and families who are most vulnerable over the winter (80% ring fenced for food and bills) but we need to ensure that everyone knows as much as possible about the fund and how it will work in practice, as soon as possible.
In her response to my question the Secretary of State who is of course a Suffolk MP I was able to share with me that it seems that Suffolk is in line for around £2 million through this fund. However the work must start now to identify those who need the support the most and raise awareness of this fund.
Earlier this year the Government provided £800,000 to Suffolk and Suffolk Councils added further to this to provide a £1.5 million Suffolk Hardship Fund. However my concern is that awareness of this fund wasn’t as widespread as it could have been and I know that some concerns have been raised by those who have tried to access this fund through the hotline provided.
I plan to hold a number of meetings over the coming weeks to ensure that the support provided works as intended and that the moment this money is distributed to Suffolk we are well placed to ensure that the support gets to all those who need it as soon as possible.
All in all what was announced on Sunday was unprecedented in its scope and ambition to support the most vulnerable however it needs to work in practice on the ground and I’m keen to play my part to ensure this is the case. It must be easily identifiable, easy to understand and efficient in distributed support to all those who need the help.
As I’ve said before I really do welcome the Holiday Activities and Food Programme having seen it in action in Ipswich over the summer. The £220 million expansion of this support across the country to cover next Easter holidays, Summer and Christmas 2021 is hugely positive news.