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Thousands of families are getting a £75 boost from Portsmouth City Council to help them make ends meet.

The boost, in the form of a supermarket food voucher, is being sent to families who qualify for benefits-related free school meals.

Families are notified of the scheme by their school and sent the vouchers by email. Schools know who qualifies for a voucher by looking at free school meal records, so families don’t need to apply. However, if a family qualifies for free school meals, and hasn’t yet been contacted about vouchers, they should get in touch with their school immediately.

The vouchers are paid for by the government’s household support fund, which is given to councils to distribute according to local circumstances.

Cllr Suzy Horton, the council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education, said: “In the current cost-of-living crisis we know how difficult it is for lots of Portsmouth families.

“We’re doing what we can to make things easier. Part of our response is distributing these vouchers, which we hope will provide a bit of much-needed help in the current situation.”

The voucher scheme covers families with children from reception age to those just finishing year 11. It also covers students at City of Portsmouth College (Highbury or Tangier Road campuses) who meet the criteria for benefits-related free school meals.

In September, vouchers will be sent to families with children in early years childcare who are eligible for two-year-old childcare funding or early years pupil premium. Eligible families will be notified in September.

The amount for children and families has been reduced in this round of the household support fund, meaning the council has less funding available for these food vouchers. This is why it is only able to provide vouchers worth £75 rather than the £90 provided last summer.

The council is also distributing money from the household support fund to foodbanks, community meal groups and community pantries. It is also working with local charities and other organisations to help people they know are struggling with the cost of food, energy and other essential bills.

Separately from the household support fund, the council is providing more help to families over the summer.

Children aged five to 16 can take part in holiday activities and enjoy good, tasty food with HAF Fun Pompey. There’s a variety of activities to attend over the holidays, from arts, dance, sailing, trips to the theatre, sports, active tech and much more. Activities are free for those eligible for free school meals, but there are also pay-as-you-go spaces available. Families can see the HAF website for more information.

As well as families with children, the council is planning to use household support fund money to help older people. Around 6,000 Portsmouth households over state pension age will receive £100. The council will be writing to eligible residents with more information in August, after details are finalised. Residents do not need to apply to the council for this payment.

The council is also highlighting free money advice and support available to local people on its money advice page. This can help residents save money, deal with debt and make sure they’re receiving everything they’re entitled to.

Local people can also find help with food, including community larders and pantries and food banks.

For advice on how to save energy and cut the cost of gas and electricity bills, residents can visit Switched On Portsmouth