Wirral Council has announced that it has secured more than £1.2 million under the government’s Covid Winter Grant Scheme to support struggling families.
The funding, which is part of a £170 million national programme by the Department for Work and Pensions, will help ensure that local children, families and vulnerable individuals do not go hungry or without utilities and other essential items.
Wirral Council is working with a range of community and voluntary sector partners, including Citizens Advice Wirral, Energy Projects Plus, Wirral Foodbank, Involve Northwest, Wirral Development Trust (Fed Up Wallasey), Feeding Birkenhead, Neo Community and a wide range of community-based food groups, together with key partners, to recommend how the money will be allocated to meet the greatest welfare needs.
The Council will be providing help to the most vulnerable this winter with:
- More than £385,000 used towards providing breakfast and lunch over the Christmas school holiday and February half-term for over 6,300 local children. The initiative, which will additionally be funded through COVID emergency funding to provide associated activities for children, will be co-ordinated by Neo Community in partnership with Wirral’s community food providers and will be targeted at families with children who normally receive free school meals and over 1,100 nursery school-aged children.
- Up to £250,000 made available to the community-based food and welfare support groups that have played a key role in the borough’s humanitarian efforts throughout the pandemic. Grants of up to £10,000 will be available to groups to help ensure that food and essential items are available to those most in need in their local communities over the winter months. The Fund is open for bids at www.wirral.gov.uk/covidwinterfund.
- Up £200,000 made available to provide crisis support for vulnerable households who are having severe difficulties with water and energy bills. This support will be led by Citizens Advice Wirral and Energy Projects Plus and is anticipated to help more than 400 households, who have suffered due to the impacts of COVID-19, break the cycle of debt and avoid acute problems over the winter months.
- Up to £100,000 allocated to help families facing fuel poverty, which has been identified as a growing problem compounded by the pandemic. This will be delivered through an innovative partnership with the Fuelbank Foundation charity, providing emergency fuel vouchers to those in crisis, receiving referrals from the Council and local referral partners including Involve Northwest, Energy Projects Plus, and Citizens Advice Wirral, who already provide support to help tackle the underlying causes of household’s fuel poverty.
- £80,000 to allow Wirral’s Humanitarian Cell to continue to provide emergency support for people in crisis, offering financial help towards specialist food, clothing, and other essential items such as cooking appliances and washing machines. It will also allow the project to cover the cost of winter school shoes for the first time.
- Around £37,000 made available to help vulnerable older people facing fuel poverty. The funding will allow Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service through its ‘Safe & Well’ visits to vulnerable households, to provide up to 400 temporary-use oil-filled radiators. It will also provide up to 1,300 winter warmth packs containing a scarf, gloves, socks, blanket, mug, and gilet. The initiative will also encourage elderly recipients to explore further support from local voluntary groups and will link with Age UK Wirral’s Big Community Check-in campaign.
- Up to £30,000 made available to help around 120 households in financial crisis who need to call out a heating engineer in emergency circumstances over the winter months. The project, which is being delivered in partnership with Wirral-based charity Energy Projects Plus, will help to avoid vulnerable people being left without heat and householders turning to unqualified or unscrupulous tradespeople, loan sharks, and adding to existing debt.
- Up to £30,000 made available to provide white goods such as cookers and washing machines to vulnerable households; this support will be delivered by community-based projects.
The Leader of Wirral Council, Councillor Janette Williamson, (pictured) said: “No child should ever go hungry, have to endure a home that isn’t heated, or go without the essential items that most of us take for granted.
“Since the start of the health emergency, the Council and its community and voluntary sector partners have made monumental efforts to support our most vulnerable residents. This much-needed funding will allow us to continue that vital work and will help thousands of local children and vulnerable people, which is needed more than ever as the cold weather draws in.”
Individuals in need of support are advised to visit the Wirral Infobank website which provides a wide range of information about help available in neighbourhoods across the borough, including food and prescription deliveries, employment and training advice, and social supermarkets (offering cut-price food).
Information about emergency support for Wirral’s most vulnerable people in a crisis situation is available on the Wirral Council website or by calling the coronavirus 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.