30 Nov 2021

New support for Island communities

Island families who are struggling to afford food and fuel will get extra help over the autumn and winter months thanks to the 'connect4communities' programme — led by the Isle of Wight Council.

Financed by the £1.1 million Household Support Fund, awarded to the authority by the Department for Work and Pensions, the new measures target families and individuals who may be struggling and is part of a nationwide effort to recover, following the pandemic.

Councillor Debbie Andre, Cabinet member for children's services, said: "The last couple of years have been tough with exceptional challenges for everyone but there are many people for whom it has been especially difficult.

"Some of our Island residents are struggling to pay for essentials like their food, keeping themselves and their homes warm and covering the cost of utilities.

"With this new funding we can support a range of schemes that offer a helping hand to people in need and, in doing so, build resilience in our communities."

At least 50 per cent of the total funding will go towards families with children, with the remaining funding allocated for other vulnerable households, including individuals such as care leavers. The programme to deliver the schemes across the Island is called 'connect4communities' and will include:

• food vouchers provided to eligible children and young people through schools and early years settings;

• funding to set up new community pantries in areas of need;

• support for care leavers and other vulnerable groups with food and fuel bills via social care teams and frontline services;

• grants for community and voluntary organisations to help meet the needs within their local communities;

• funding for the Citizens Advice to provide assistance with fuel and utility bills;

• food vouchers for those in receipt of council tax benefit.

Food and fuel vouchers

Schools, colleges and early years settings will provide food vouchers of £15 per child per week to cover the Christmas holiday and again for the February half term, as they did over the October half term.

These vouchers are for children eligible for benefits related free school meals (FSM), children with a social worker or open to early help, 16 to 18-year-olds previously eligible for free school meals and two to four-year-olds accessing childcare and eligible for Early Years Pupil Premium.

A food and fuel voucher worth £50 each will be made available to care leavers in need who are not covered by the extended free school meal provision.

A food voucher worth £25 each will also be made available to those in receipt of council tax benefit.

Helping community and voluntary organisations give local support

Other support to be provided by the programme includes grants for community and voluntary organisations, such as Citizen’s Advice.

Firstly, Citizen's Advice will use the funding to provide a single point of contact for Island residents to understand the sources of support that may be available to them through the connect4Communities programme, and via other means. This will be via the existing Help Through Crisis Helpline (Isle Help - Help Through Crisis (iow.gov.uk).

Secondly, Citizens Advice will use the funding to provide supermarket or food bank vouchers for food as well as direct financial support to households with fuel bills over the winter period.

Community organisations can apply for grants that will support initiatives that help people in need with food and fuel. This can range from learning to cook healthy and nutritious meals on a budget or with slow cookers, or activities around food preparation that involve the whole family.

Further funding will be allocated to specific initiatives such as holiday and food projects that provide cookery and food support to families during school holidays as well as projects aimed at supporting those in work on low incomes.

Community pantries

Funding will be used to set up community pantries in areas of need.

Community pantries work on the principle of giving those in need the opportunity to have a ‘helping hand’ by getting food at a lower rate on a weekly basis. Items found in the pantry will be a range of fresh, frozen, and general foods which will change on a weekly basis. Access to the community pantry is by way of membership, and for a small weekly contribution, members receive food to a significantly higher value.

Housing costs

In exceptional circumstances, help will be made available for housing costs where it cannot be met by existing schemes such as Discretionary Housing Payments.

Councillor Andre added: "Exceptional housing support is not only for households who receive benefits but also for anyone on a low income who is struggling financially.

"If your energy costs are a high proportion of your income, for example, you might be eligible for help. I would urge anyone who is unsure if they can get support to contact connect4communities by email at connect4communities@iow.gov.uk or by visiting the website, or contacting Citizen's Advice.

Voluntary and third sector organisations, who know their communities best and are in the ideal position to provide support, are encouraged to apply for grants via the website: connect4communities.org

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At least 50 per cent of the total funding will go towards families with children
At least 50 per cent of the total funding will go towards families with children
Factfile
  • The new measures target families and individuals who may be struggling and is part of a nationwide effort to recover, following the pandemic.
  • At least 50 per cent of the total funding will go towards families with children, with the remaining funding allocated for other vulnerable households, including individuals such as care leavers.
 
Isle of Wight, UK