Nick Abbot 10pm - 1am
Covid Winter Grant Scheme extended with £40m extra support for bills and food
14 April 2021, 12:41
A grant scheme providing help with food and bills for vulnerable households during the coronavirus pandemic has been extended.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said the Covid Winter Grant Scheme would be renamed the Covid Local Support Grant and will run until 20 June - a day before most lockdown restrictions in England are lifted.
The scheme, which allows English councils to provide support to families and individuals, was originally due to expire on 31 March but had already been extended to mid-April.
Ms Coffey told MPs the move was in recognition that "some restrictions on the economy continue".
She said: "The initial scheme was issued at £170million and was due to conclude at the end of March 2021.
"In the first two months of the scheme, covering December 2020 and January 2021, local authorities spent over £86million, with 94% awarded to support families with children and 96% used on the provision of food and support with utility bills.
"In the same period, nearly 2.4 million awards had been made to vulnerable households through the scheme."
The first extension added an additional £59 million of support but now a further £40million has now been allocated.
The scheme, announced on 8 November, will go directly to local authorities, but with 80 per cent ring-fenced "to support with food and essential utility costs".
The Government sparked controversy in January when it ordered schools not to provide free school meals during the holidays and point parents to the scheme instead.
The scheme does not appear to offer the same guarantee provided by free school meal vouchers, with it instead relying on councils to "directly help the hardest-hit families" and "identify" those most in need.