Suffolk County Council will be receiving an extra £2million to help disadvantaged children and families as part of a £170m national scheme, so every child will be warm and well-fed this winter. As Work & Pensions Secretary, I know first-hand the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on people’s incomes and I’m proud that my department is administering this new Covid Winter Grant Scheme, which builds on the significant support already given throughout the year, including protecting nine million jobs through furlough and boosting welfare support by £9.3bn.
Crucially, our £220m Holiday Activities and Food programme is also being rolled out across the country which means that disadvantaged children will also be able to enjoy fun, enriching activities with a good meal during the longer holidays. Keeping our children connected to such activities through the year will help them perform better at school. Ipswich was one of the pilot areas for this programme and I am looking forward to children in other parts of Suffolk being able to participate. The quality of food is also important. We already support pre-school children and expectant mothers from low-income families with the cost of nutritional food through our Healthy Start Scheme - and we are raising the weekly payments from £3.10 to £4.25 with babies getting two payments per week. Combined, this is a comprehensive package of over £400m to support children in the year ahead as part of a rounded plan on health and education.
As I said in the House of Commons recently, I firmly believe that local councils are best placed to understand who needs support and which local organisations to fund to ensure families are looked after. Suffolk County Council leader, Matthew Hicks informed readers of this paper about the work that they were doing with the £700k grant, which local leaders topped up with a further £800k. I know this extra money will be very welcome. If you or someone you know needs help, call the helpline on 0800 068 3131.
Finally, yesterday was Armistice Day and although our remembrance commemorations have looked a little different this year, it’s even more important that we remember those that made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. A freedom that we’ve probably all appreciated a little more this year, considering the temporary restrictions on our lives. Although coronavirus continues to cast its shadow across the world, the bravery and fortitude of previous generations gives us the perfect example to get through these tough times together. Lest we forget.