Wirral awarded £3 million to help vulnerable residents this summer

Wirral Council has secured more than £3 million to provide school meal replacements and help residents facing severe financial difficulties this summer.

The funding is from an extension to the Government’s Household Support Fund and will be targeted at the borough’s most vulnerable residents, with a third ring-fenced to support families with children, and a further third allocated to help pensioners (age 65+).

Wirral Council’s director of resources, Shaer Halewood, said, “Cost of living increases are making it increasingly difficult for people to make ends meet, so this £3 million of extra support is very welcome. The new funding will be targeted at the most vulnerable people in our community, with the majority being used to help with essential food and fuel costs. 

“We know that many families rely on school meals and will be worried about feeding their children over the summer, so more than £1 million will used to provide food for the summer holiday via nurseries, schools, Birkenhead Sixth Form College and through Holiday Activity Fund play schemes. 

“If you or someone you know is in genuine need and struggling, please find out what help is available.”

The funding is the latest from the Department for Work and Pensions which has provided more than £6 million to Wirral since December 2020 under the COVID Winter Grant Scheme and COVID Local Support Grants.

The £3.049 million awarded under the latest phase must be spent by 30 September 2022 and will be used towards the following projects:

Financial Support with Fuel and with Fuel & Water Debt (£650,000)

Vulnerable residents who are unable to pay for the fuel they need to heat and power their homes or are struggling to deal with fuel and water debt can apply for help in several ways:

  • Those with pre-payment meters can request a fuel voucher (gas and electric) from  national charity, Fuelbank Foundation, via their local delivery partners Citizens Advice Wirral, Involve Northwest and Energy Projects Plus, as well as via the Emergency Financial Support Scheme (see below). 
  • People who pay by direct debit can apply for help towards their fuel and water costs, which will be paid directly to their utility provider following an assessment and referral by Citizens Advice Wirral.
  • People struggling with fuel and water debt can request help to clear or reduce their debt from Citizens Advice Wirral and Energy Projects Plus. 
  • People in crisis situations who are unable to repair or replace broken or obsolete heating and do not qualify for help under other programmes can apply to local charity Energy Projects Plus for help under the Crisis Support with heating scheme.

Small Grants Programme (£600,000) 

Community-based food and welfare support groups, including many that played a key role supporting residents through the pandemic, were invited to apply for up to £20,000 (plus up to £2,000 administration costs) to help ensure that food and essential items are available to those most in need in their local communities over the summer months. The application window closed on Friday 27th May 2022 and bids are currently being assessed.

Emergency School Food Pantries (£520,000) 

Primary, secondary, special schools, and Birkenhead Sixth Form College will be given a store of ambient items for the children to take home and use over the summer holiday. The project builds on the success of a similar scheme delivered in partnership with local charity Neo Community, which saw 112 pallet-loads of food delivered to 40 local schools in the autumn of 2021. 

Emergency Financial Support Scheme (£400,000)

The scheme allows the Council to provide emergency support to help people in crisis situations due to an emergency or disaster, as well as to helping those leaving care, hospital, or prison to become established in the community. It can contribute towards necessary items and expenses, including essential and specialist food needs, furniture and household goods, white goods, fuel and utilities including phone and broadband bills and some medical expenses. All applications are carefully considered against strict eligibility criteria and evidence of need.

Holiday Activity Fund (HAF) – Food Support (£200,000)

The HAF is a national programme providing more than 70 clubs and activity venues in Wirral over the summer holiday for free school meal-eligible young people.  The Household Support Fund will ensure every child taking part will receive a nutritious meal each day they attend.

Wirral Family Cook Off (£200,000) 

Up to 4,000 families in all parts of the borough will receive food boxes containing the ingredients and step-by-step menu cards to create interesting and nutritious family meals together this summer. The project builds on the two earlier phases of the Wirral Cook Off, which have seen saw more than 25,000 hampers containing 120,000 family meals, provided to households across Wirral. 

Early Years Food and Essential Hampers During School Holidays (£130,000)

Families who qualify for 2 Year Funding or Early Years Pupil Premium (the pre-cursors to free school meal eligibility at primary school) will receive hampers containing food and other essential items, which will be provided for the nursery/school summer holidays. Other local families with children under 5 who may need the same support should contact their nearest Children’s Centre to discuss applying. 

Housing Support Costs (£100,000)

The funding will allow Wirral’s Revenues and Benefits service to allocate funding to support housing costs in exceptional cases of genuine emergency where existing housing support schemes cannot be used. 

Crisis Support with White Goods (£54,000)

This funding will allow community-based partners, North Birkenhead Development Trust and St Vincent de Paul Society (Wirral), to continue providing white goods and other essential items to vulnerable households who do not qualify for the Council’s Emergency Financial Support Scheme.

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service: Risk Reduction Items (£20,000) 

Wirral will provide continued support for an MFRS-led initiative to install heating-related risk reduction items in the homes of vulnerable people across the borough.  The Fire Service will target this support, however a referral can be made to MFRS if a vulnerable household is identified.  Please email COVID19 Food Team COVID19foodteam@wirral.gov.uk  for a copy of the referral form if required.Further information is available on the Wirral Council website at www.wirral.gov.uk/welfaresupport  or by calling the helpline on 0151 666 5050 if you are unable to go online. The helpline can also advise on assistance that may be available from Age UK Wirral for anyone digitally excluded.

Information about other support for residents is available on the Wirral Infobank website at www.wirralinfobank.co.uk

Image: Dan Gold

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