THOUSANDS of parents can get £30 worth of free supermarket vouchers to spend on food.
The cash vouchers are provided through the Household Support Fund worth £421million.
And fresh funding for the scheme is available to local authorities until March next year.
The scheme was first established last year, extended for the second time in the March budget and for a third time in November to help those on the lowest incomes with the rising cost of living.
Each council gets a different portion of funding depending on the size of the catchment area, population, and need.
The vouchers or grants on offer vary by location and you’ll have to check to see how your council will pay you.
And now Essex County Council has revealed that free meal vouchers will be available to around 50,000 schoolchildren over the Christmas period.
Vouchers will be sent to the parents of eligible children via their school or early years setting before the holidays start on December 21.
Each voucher is worth £15 a week per child and can be used to buy food in most supermarkets.
To be eligible for the free cash vouchers, households must contain children who are either:
- aged four to 19 who are registered for free meals with their school or college.
- children aged two, three and four who are entitled to pupil premium or free entitlement funding supplement.
Vouchers will be sent to eligible households automatically and parents won’t need to apply.
Other councils including Middlesbrough Council have issued 9,000 vouchers to parents whose children qualify for free school meals this week.
Can I get help if I don’t live in Essex?
Yes – you can still get help under the Household Support Fund.
What support you can get will vary, because each council is in charge of how to spend the funding available.
Some decide to dish the help out automatically, while you’ll need to apply in other cases.
Some councils choose to distribute funding in the form of vouchers, while others give out cash payments.
To get more information on what support is available, and how to get it, you’ll need to contact your local council.
You can find yours using the gov.UK council checker tool.
What can I get?
Councils decide how to distribute their funding.
But in the last round of funding, you could get up to £500 in free cash support from some councils – like Bromsgrove and Redditch.
York City Council is paying hard-up households £300 directly into their bank accounts under the scheme.
Residents of Effingham, near Guildford, could also get up to £300 free cash to help them through the cost of living crisis.
While Lewisham Council sent payments to families with children receiving free school meals, and pensioner households if they apply for the help.
Bradford council is also issuing a £65 payment to some residents this winter.
What other help can I get to pay for food this Christmas?
The Healthy Start scheme offers prepaid food cards to women who are more than 10 weeks pregnant or women or men who have children under four.
Most local councils run their own welfare assistance schemes for households on low incomes or who are dealing with a crisis.
Grants can sometimes be worth up to £1,000.
Free school meals are on offer during term time and they will also be available to some families over the festive period.
Term times vary across the country, but most schools in England will close for the Christmas holidays on December 19 before returning on January 3, 2023.
Parents whose children qualify for free school meals can claim up to £40 per child, but this will vary depending on where you live.
The help given to each family depends on the local authority.
We’ve rounded up five ways you can get free cash to pay for food this Christmas.
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