Making a positive difference - County Council launches new community project to tackle COVID-19 hardship

A new initiative to help families and individuals who are facing hardship because of the coronavirus pandemic is being launched by Hampshire County Council

Dec 9 2020

The ‘connect4communities’ programme will be community-based and driven by Hampshire County Council - working with community partners such as schools, colleges and Early Years providers, as well as voluntary and charity organisations. Funded by the £2.89 million Winter Grant Scheme, awarded to the Authority by the Department for Work and Pensions, the scheme comprises a planned programme of supportive measures mainly, but not exclusively, targeting families on low incomes with children over the winter and beyond.  
 
Councillor Patricia Stallard, the County Council’s Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services and Young People said: “I have no hesitation in agreeing, on behalf of the County Council, that we proceed with the proposed package of measures. 2020 has been a really tough year with unprecedented challenges for everyone but there are many people for whom it has been especially hard.  
 
“As a result, some find themselves facing difficulties that they could not have imagined. ‘connect4communities’ is not a hand-out, but a helping hand for Hampshire families who are struggling to pay for basic essentials, like food and fuel to keep their homes warm. The aim is to support those in need, particularly during the school holidays, and help ensure vulnerable children and young people do not go without the necessities.” 
 
Councillor Stallard added: “We have several exciting projects in the pipeline, which will roll out over the coming months. Each one will address specific areas of need and help build resilience in communities affected by COVID-19.” 
 
At least 80% of the total funding will go towards families with children, with up to 20% allocated for other households in need, including individuals such as young carers and care leavers. The ‘connect4communities’ scheme will be delivered across the county by a range of sources including schools and voluntary groups and will comprise: 

  • Providing food vouchers 
  • Providing vouchers/payment cards for fuel, energy and water bills  
  • Expanding the Christmas school holiday support, for the school holidays in 2021 to include providing a daily hot meal and fun, educational activities/playschemes
  • Supporting the establishment of Community Pantries
  • Supporting organisations to provide direct help to vulnerable households through community grants 
  • Providing slow-cookers to families without basic cooking facilities
  • Setting up a ‘connect4communities’ online directory for residents to search by postcode to find where they may be able to access financial and other support and subsidised food  

Food Voucher and Discretionary Grants Schemes 
‘connect4communities’ builds on the County Council’s previously announced Food Voucher and Discretionary Grants schemes, which will help feed children and young people including young carers and care leavers, over the Christmas holiday fortnight. Through the Discretionary Grants Scheme, schools and colleges have access to funding to help families who may not be immediately eligible for the free food vouchers but find themselves struggling financially; for example, where a parent has lost their job due to COVID-19. 
 
The County Council will be expanding the schemes to provide activity programmes for the forthcoming Spring Half Term Holiday (February 2021), Easter Holidays (March/April 2021) and Summer Holidays (July/August 2021). 
 
Thanks to a kind donation by the Book Trust, free books and activity packs will also be given to Hampshire families with Early Year children eligible for the food voucher scheme. This will provide an extra Christmas gift that will help children enjoy reading and improve literacy.  
 
Community Pantries 
‘connect4communities’ will also fund plans to ensure there is at least one Community Pantry in each of the 11 districts in the Hampshire County Council local authority area – either by supporting an existing Community Pantry or establishing a new Pantry. Community pantries offer those in need the chance to buy food at a lower cost than at the supermarket, on a weekly basis.   
 
Helping community groups to support vulnerable families 
Other support to be provided by the initiative includes grants for community and voluntary organisations, such as Citizen’s Advice. These grants will support families in need with food, energy and water bills. They can also be used for essential items such as warm clothing and bedding, as well to supply slow-cookers to households who do not have basic cooking facilities. 
 
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   
 
ENDS