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A helping hand for vulnerable children and young people this Christmas

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The Isle of Wight Council has today (Wednesday) announced a major scheme to provide food vouchers for all in need this Christmas, with the aim of no child going hungry.

The initiative will support vulnerable children and young people and their families who are facing hardship over the festive period because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Councillor Paul Brading, Cabinet member for children's services, education and skills, said the vouchers would help feed an estimated 5,590 children on the Island.

He said: “By introducing a food voucher scheme, we can help to ensure that no Isle of Wight child should go hungry over the Christmas and new year holidays.

"This decision has been taken at the first opportunity to enable schools to get the vouchers prior to the Christmas break.

"There will be a further announcement next week about a range of further community based provision to support families over the winter.”

The scheme is being funded from the £456,845 Winter Grant Scheme, awarded by the Department for Work and Pensions as part of a planned programme of supportive measures over winter.

It is also to be extended over the February 2021 half-term week.

The vouchers will be available to the following:

  • All families whose children are eligible for free school meals.
  • Children being supported by a social worker.
  • Children receiving early help services across the Island.
  • Two to four year olds accessing childcare and eligible for Early Years Pupil Premium.
  • Sixteen to 18 year olds who were previously eligible for free school meals.

The council also has sufficient funding to provide vouchers to the Island's care leavers and support to young carers.

Nurseries, pre-schools, childminders, schools and colleges will be the distributors of the vouchers.

Each eligible household will receive a voucher per child worth £15 per week which can be used at a range of supermarkets.

Additionally, the council is providing schools and colleges with a discretionary grant fund.

These grants will help support families who may not be immediately eligible for the voucher scheme but find themselves struggling financially — for example, where a parent has lost their job due to Covid-19.

Schools can use these grants to help families with food and other essential items, such as energy cards/tokens to pay fuel bills.

Councillor Brading added: “I would like to thank all our education providers for helping us to reach those in need of this support.

"They know their children, young people and families best so are far better placed to distribute the vouchers. With their assistance, we can help to ensure that vulnerable children don’t go without necessities like food and heating over the winter.”

Families who may be facing financial difficulties this Christmas are encouraged to speak to their early years or childcare provider, school or college, and the matter will be handled in the strictest of confidence.

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