What’s in the New DWP Winter Package?
- A rise in payments for ‘Healthy Start vouchers‘ (e.g. increasing to £4.25 per week from April 2021).
- COVID Winter Grant Scheme (£170 million to help support the most vulnerable children and families through the winter).
- Expansions to the holiday activities and food programme (targeting Easter, Summertime, and the Christmas period in 2021).
- Other measures that represent part of a long-term plan that focus on tackling hunger, education, and poor health.
Note: The DWP produces further guidance for local councils about supporting vulnerable households through the COVID winter support grant.
COVID Winter Grant Scheme
Councils in England will run a new scheme that builds on support already given to those who have been suffering most during the coronavirus pandemic.
New funding for vulnerable households includes significant financial support to help them pay for the essentials, such as food and utility bills.
The funds, already given to authorities, means they can deploy it during the challenging winter months (January to the end of March 2021).
So, how does it work?
The hardest-hit individuals and families will be getting direct help from local councils in England. As a result, the authorities will provide food for children who are in danger of starvation.
UK Government sees the local councils as being best placed for identifying which groups need the most support during the winter holiday period.
Note: Schools will continue to provide meals for disadvantaged children. Another section contains information about school term and holiday dates in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Holiday Activities and Food Programme
The holiday activities and food programme 2021 provides a specific type of grant funding to local authorities. It allows them to coordinate free holiday provision for children that qualify.
In fact, this particular scheme has been providing disadvantaged children with enriching activities and healthy food since 2018.
This year, the expansion covers Easter, Summer and Christmas across at least seventeen local authorities.
Healthy Start Scheme
Getting milk tokens is an important part of the Healthy Start scheme. Even so, existing payments should increase to the new rate of £4.25 a week from April, 2021.
The scheme helps pregnant women and mothers who are breastfeeding infants. The free food list includes things like:
- Infant formula
- Tinned fruit
- Fresh vegetables
Furthermore, additional pledges announced by the government include £16 million in extra funding to help food distribution charities (e.g. FareShare).
Comments from the Work and Pensions Secretary
The aim is to ensure vulnerable people feel cared for during this difficult time. Above all, it is important that no one goes hungry or is unable to pay their bills this winter.
We have supported the lowest-paid families with notable consistency. Moreover, the furlough scheme helped to protect nine million jobs.
The new winter package builds on existing support. As a result, the £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme will best protect children and families that need it the most.
Extra Difficulties During School Holidays
The government acknowledges how difficult school holidays can be. Thus, it is important that children at risk do not forego healthy activities, learning opportunities, and regular meals.
Statistics show by the age of fourteen summer time learning loss accounts for around 60% of the attainment gap between the richest and poorest children.
And the outcome…
Further measures taken by ministers during the pandemic focus on protecting the most vulnerable in our society. Hence, a robust package of financial support targeting underprivileged families and children, includes:
- An extension to free school meals support when schools are closed due to lockdown (to those who qualify).
- The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (both extended through 2021).
- Increases to Local Housing Allowance rates for Universal Credit and Housing Benefit (covering the lowest 30% of local rents).
- Up to £20 per week increases to Universal Credit and Tax Credits.
- £63 million for local councils to provide emergency assistance to vulnerable families and pensioners.
As a result, an investment close to £220 million expands the Holiday Activities and Food programme. It provides healthy food and fun activities for disadvantaged children through the main holiday periods.