Help is out there for desperate families, says Suffolk council leader

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks said the fund had already helped hundreds of families. Picture: SUFFOLK...

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks said the fund had already helped hundreds of families. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL - Credit: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Bosses at Suffolk County Council have insisted there should be no problem for people needing to get support from the special fund set up for those in need during the covid-19 crisis.

Council leader Matthew Hicks said that the Suffolk Advice and Support Service was simple to access – its details were on the front page of the county council website and leaflets outlining its work were being delivered to every home in Suffolk from next week.

It is being promoted as a possible source of help for families who are struggling to feed children during the half-term break while they are not able to get free school meals after MPs voted against extending that scheme this week and during the Christmas holidays.

MORE: Protests over decision not to offer free school meals in holidays

Mr Hicks said: “The details are clearly available and people can reach the service between nine and five, five days a week. We have so far helped 290 people – but it is about far more than free school meals, we have been able to support families with one-off expenses and give advice on a range of issues including debt counselling.”

Part of the service was a local assistance fund that had received £770,000 from the government and a further £800.000 from local authority leaders in the county. This fund had so far distributed £600,000 so there was still money available for those who needed it.

Mr Hicks said: “This isn’t a political issue. It’s not just the county. It’s set up by local council leaders from all parties across the county.”

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Opposition councillors have been concerned that families who usually rely on free school meals could be struggling during holiday periods and might not be able to access the help they needed.

Labour spokesman for children’s services at the county council Jack Abbott said often the poorest did not have access to technology they needed to get the help.

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He said: “Some of these families do not have access to a computer so it is difficult for them to look up information on a website. We are hearing that some people have really struggled to try to find out how to get help.

“And there is concern that there is not the direct help that some families need – some of the funding has gone to other groups who really need it, but it isn’t available for families who need to be able to feed their children.”

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