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Over £200,000 proposed for community welfare support this winter

Published Tuesday, 21 September 2021

A total £228,000 has been put forward to fund further Free School Meals and provide additional support to help York residents through the coming winter months.

If agreed, the Council will invest £150,000 in its Free School Meal voucher scheme to beat hunger during school holidays, and a further additional £78,000 to fund community support schemes. Both funds are designed to help alleviate some of the financial pressures which many are expected to experience after the furlough scheme and the £20 Universal Credit uplift end this autumn.

The recommendation around Free School Meal vouchers recognises that in York, the number of eligible pupils has risen from 2,721 in January 2020 to 3,347 in January 2021. This new scheme aims to benefit families on lower incomes and will run from autumn half term in 2021, until the February 2022 half term. It will also include the week in the Christmas holidays which is not already covered by the Holiday Activities and Food Programme Fund.

The Executive will also consider funding for three further schemes to support communities and residents to access financial and digital support. They will run for 12 months and will be paid for by existing emergency funding from York Financial Assistance Scheme (YFAS). They are:

  • an additional £20,000 Early Support Fund will be added to £40,000 of existing funding for small grants available in communities which will be a flexible and rapid source of support for people and families facing financial crisis or who can’t get the support they need. Following a pilot run over the past 18 months, the fund will be administered by the city’s Local Area Coordinators
  • £35,000 Early Intervention Project will support residents to break the cycle of debt. Advisers and Council Tax, Housing and Benefits services will take a holistic view across all debts with the council to address debt and ensure access support
  • £23,220 100% Digital York Project. With 13% of York residents not online, a co-ordinator will ensure people do not suffer social isolation or miss out the financial benefits of being online, and that they develop digital skills and tackling social isolation. The co-ordinator will also attract more funding to continue the project

Cllr Nigel Ayre, Executive Members of Finance and Performance at City of York Council, said:

We know how worried many people are about the impending end of the £20 Universal Credit uplift and of course, the end of the furlough scheme. That is exactly why these proposals have been forward, to help alleviate that pressure.

“The extra Free School Meals vouchers and other funded schemes are absolutely the right thing to do and through them, we want to ensure lower income residents can secure the right support over what will be a difficult winter period for some families in the city.“

Cllr Denise Craghill, Executive Member for Housing and Safer Neighbourhoods at City of York Council, said:

Across the UK, over 400,000 private tenants may be in significant rent arrears by the end of this year and are at risk of eviction. Support and advice to help them out of debt is important for both their financial security and mental health.

“Besides this funding, I’m delighted that the council and partners are working together on Challenge Poverty, Talk Money Month from 11 October to 12 November 2021 The month of action and events let people to know about the support available and where to get help online and across the city. We’ll announce details shortly.”

The Executive will meet to consider this report on 30 September at 5.30pm. The full report can be seen at Agenda for Executive on Thursday, 30 September 2021, 5.30 pm (york.gov.uk) and the meeting can be watched at Meeting webcasts – City of York Council .