Decision details

Decision to support families with children, in need of emergency food and household essentials identified through partnership working with schools

Decision Maker: Director of Resources and Assurance

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: No

Is subject to call in?: No

Decision:

The number of ‘children in poverty’ is on the increase across the whole of the UK (according to Child Poverty Action Group). Many families in Herefordshire who are on low incomes are struggling to afford food, energy and other essential household items. This includes those working households, who are above the free school meal income threshold as well as those on low incomes just above the means tested threshold for benefits. Low-income households spend a larger proportion than average on energy and food so will be more affected by price increases.

Providing food vouchers for households of children and young people, at the discretion of the schools, can support households to prevent escalation of problems. These include families with children of all ages, large families and single parent families.

The approach has been tested with a number of schools and community representatives and has had a positive response. The proposal has been developed with the Strategic Finance Manager for Schools to develop procedures and guidance on how the scheme will work. The scheme was reviewed in October 2023 and appropriate adjustments made as required.

Through this proposal, primary and secondary aged school pupils who are in households that are in the most need of support to help with significantly rising living costs will receive a food voucher that can be redeemed at supermarkets. It is anticipated that this is a one-off payment but that by exception some households may need further support and this will be capped at a maximum of two vouchers to end September 2024. Families will be identified by schools which are well placed to identify struggling households.

36 Eligible schools have been determined using data based on the number of pupils that attend the school on FSM, this shows as an indicator of deprivation. All eligible schools have at least over 15% of children on FSM's and have participated in the vouchers scheme previously.

Herefordshire Council has received an allocation of £1,329,601.78 from the Department of Works and Pensions under the next phase of the Household Support Fund which will run from 1 April 2024 to 30 September 2024. The expectation is that the funding should be used primarily to support households in the most need. This scheme will form part of wider offer that is being developed as part of the allocation of the Household Support Fund.

By utilising the funding from government, this will have a positive impact on low income families and child poverty by minimising the debt burden on those that struggle to pay essential bills.

In February 2023, there were 10,370 households in Herefordshire claiming Universal Credit, the highest level seen since January 2020. Of these households just over a half (5,330) had at least one child.

Consumer prices, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) have risen exponentially over the past two years. The Bank of England has also raised interest rates to 5.25% placing further pressure on families.

These increases have resulted in more households struggling with the financial strain, including those not previously eligible or support through existing government schemes.

Contact: Laura Matthews, Programme Coordinator Email: Laura.Matthews@herefordshire.gov.uk Tel: 01432 261517.

Publication date: 06/06/2024

Date of decision: 04/06/2024

Accompanying Documents: