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Portsmouth is set to receive up to £765,000 from the Covid Winter Grant Scheme to support children, families and the most vulnerable over the winter with essential costs. The government funding is being made available to local authorities, with at least 80 per cent of funds earmarked to support people with food and fuel bills. The scheme will run until the end of March 2021.

In Portsmouth, a broad range of referral agencies, such as housing organisations, charities, voluntary groups and early help services, will be able to identify people in need of urgent help. The support provided will meet the needs of each family or person and could be in the form of supermarket vouchers, food parcels or help with energy bills.

Cllr Chris Attwell, Portsmouth City Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Central Services, said: “The winter months are incredibly tough for vulnerable families and this year the challenges are greater than ever. The funding that has been made available means we will be able to increase support to those in need over the coming months.”

Covid Winter Grant Scheme funds will be used to support the distribution of food vouchers to families in Portsmouth over the Christmas holiday. Each eligible family will receive £30 worth of supermarket vouchers per child to cover the two week Christmas holiday, supporting approximately 7050 children.

The same support has now also been extended to disadvantaged 16-19 year olds in colleges who are not usually covered by the free school meals scheme. Colleges will identify the young people who are most in need. It is estimated that it will apply to an additional 430 young people. The council has also committed funds from the Covid Winter Grant Scheme to provide the same support for families over February half term.

Cllr Suzy Horton, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “We committed in October to making sure that children in Portsmouth would not go hungry over the Christmas period. Thanks to Marcus Rashford’s successful campaigning, this much-needed national funding has now been made available to support food vouchers for families over Christmas. I’m really pleased that we’re also able to extend the scheme to help the families of vulnerable college students and commit to providing the same support to Portsmouth’s poorest families over February half term.”

Anyone who is struggling to pay for food and other essentials or is in urgent need of financial help can find local support and advice on our money advice page.