Spending £380,000 ‘Rashford money’ to help local families in need

Councillors in Brighton & Hove are being asked to give the green light to spending around £380,000 on food vouchers for local families in need over the Christmas and February half-term holidays.

Timescales are tight for delivering effective support for families. The council’s Policy and Resources committee on Thursday 3 December is being asked to agree the voucher scheme so it can be up and running in time for the Christmas holidays.

Families whose children are entitled to free school meals (or similar circumstances) would receive a £15 supermarket food voucher per week over the Christmas and February 2021 half-term period. 

The same would apply for families whose children qualify for free childcare places for two-year olds or Early Years Pupil Premium.

The council is also planning to support more children than currently qualify for free school meals, including through support to those using the children’s food banks, in order to reach more people.

The council has been allocated £865,000 from the government’s Winter Covid Grant scheme. The scheme is partly in response to footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to tackle child food poverty. 

Committee chair and council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty said: “With the pandemic exacerbating hardship, too many people in our city have been left facing food and fuel poverty. 

“We can be deeply thankful to all those in our city, including our fantastic community organisations, who provide food to those in need. 

“Anyone who needs assistance should know that there are people here to help, without judgement.

“On top of the support the council and partners have been pulling together year-round for families and children in need, the high profile campaign led by Marcus Rashford means the government’s Winter Covid Grant now offers us a vital boost. 

“We have a duty to get support as quickly as possible to the families who are in desperate circumstances.

“Our focus is also on finding ways to help local families in need who may be in food poverty but who fall above the usual thresholds for qualifying for support.

“As part of this support, we also want to continue to work closely with our city’s excellent community and voluntary sector to use the remaining grant to support families and children in need over the winter. 

“We want to look at the many ways we can help families who are struggling to make ends meet at what is already an incredibly challenging time.”

The report going to committee this week will also set out some options for future use of the remaining elements of the grant.

Councillors are expected to make decisions around allocating the rest of the Winter Covid Grant funding at a later date.