Thousands of people across Swindon will be offered supermarket vouchers ahead of the February half-term school holidays.
The move is part of a scheme facilitated by Swindon Borough Council.
Last year, the council was awarded £624,935 by the Government as part of the Covid Winter Grant Scheme, to support families with the cost of food and fuel during the Christmas and February school holidays.
During the upcoming half-term break, the council aims to use the funding to support even more people in need of support, by extending the eligibility to include a wider range of residents.
Eligible residents will receive a £15 supermarket voucher to cover the one-week half-term period the week beginning 15 February.
Cllr Russell Holland, Deputy Leader of Swindon Borough Council and Cabinet Member for Commercialisation, Education and Skills, said: “This half term we are pleased to be able to offer support to even more eligible residents through our Winter Grant funding.
"This follows on from the support that the Council and our voluntary partners provided to over 7,000 local children during the Christmas holidays.
“Our priority is to ensure those that need support are able to access it. I would urge anybody who meets the eligibility criteria for the supermarket vouchers to come forward and self-refer this February half term.
"We hope that this support will help to take the pressure off families and residents who have been the hardest hit by the pandemic.
"I would also like to thank the school staff and everyone else who has worked so hard to support making this happen."
The majority of those eligible to receive vouchers will be children who are entitled to free school meals during term time. Children in receipt of two-year-old funding and those eligible for the pupil premium aged three and four will also benefit from the support.
Parents or carers of these eligible children do not need to apply to receive the vouchers. Instead, vouchers will be distributed via School Vouchers, a website which allows schools to order supermarket vouchers for local families.
Education settings select the pupils entitled to receive the vouchers, as well as a range of local supermarkets the vouchers can be used at. The voucher is then sent to the parents or carers of those children via text or email, to be used at the range of stores selected by the school.
With no cost to either the council or schools, this method of distribution ensures the maximum amount of funding reaches families. It also offers families a choice of preferred supermarket and removes the requirement for families to apply themselves.
Vulnerable children under the age of two may be entitled to the funding, which can be applied for via a social worker, health visitor or the Early Help family service.
The council will be able to use the same system to claim vouchers through the system to send direct to these families, through social care and Early Help services.
Over the coming weeks, the council will be working closely with early years settings, schools and colleges to ensure the efficient and timely delivery of the vouchers to vulnerable children and families across Swindon.
In addition, the Winter Grant will also be used this February half-term to fund supermarket vouchers for adults without children who have been:
- Made redundant since 23 March 2020 and remain unemployed
- Self-employed and are waiting, or are not eligible for Self Employed COVID Financial support
- In receipt of Income Related Employment or Support Allowance, Universal Credit, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance Income based
- On a low income defined as below “16 hours at National Living Wage for someone age 25 and over (£139 per week)”
- Unable to meet essential needs, which presents a risk to physical or mental wellbeing
- Referred by a Foodbank
- Referred by a service within the Council
- Referred by Citizens Advice Bureau after seeking debt advice
- Verified as a rough sleeper or homeless by the Council
Residents meeting the above criteria, will need to fill out a self-referral form on the Council’s website to apply by the closing date of Thursday, 11 February 2021: https://www.swindon.gov.uk/foodvouchers
Any parents with children who are not currently eligible for free school meals but who meet the criteria, are encouraged to speak with their child’s education setting so that a voucher can be allocated via their school.
Over the two-week Christmas period, more than £210k was allocated to families through vouchers worth £15 per week, with over 7,000 local children receiving vouchers.