To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps her Department plans to take to raise awareness of the Covid Winter Grant Scheme to families of children eligible for free schools meals who will be able to receive support over the upcoming Christmas holiday.
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps she is taking to ensure that families of children who are eligible for Free School Meals are aware of the need to access the Covid Winter Grant Scheme to receive food provision support over the Christmas holidays.
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps she is taking to (a) inform families of children who are eligible for Free School Meals how to access support under the Covid Winter Grant Scheme and (b) support those families to access that scheme.
The Covid Winter Support Grant is a new £170m fund which will enable local authorities in England to support vulnerable households this winter with food and key utilities. To ensure those most in need benefit from this funding, grants to local authorities are being made under Section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003 and carry conditions to ensure the primary focus of the scheme is on supporting vulnerable families with children affected by the pandemic, including but not restricted to households who are eligible for free school meals. Local authorities will develop their own criteria.
We have provided these grants to upper tier authorities, recognising they have the statutory responsibility regarding children and are well placed to identify and respond to local need. A wide range of data is already available to them to help target their support, including access to the benefits system, social services, health visitors and relationships with schools. Local authorities already have local welfare assistance responsibility and many have support programmes already in place. Jobcentres will share information with claimants about the support available in their local area.
Detailed guidance has been shared with local authorities and was published on gov.uk on 24 November: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-winter-grant-scheme