Hardship Fund to continue for further 12 months helping families in need
PUBLISHED: 15:42 25 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:24 25 September 2020
A government-funded scheme supporting families in need during the coronavirus crisis will continue for a further 12 months in Suffolk thanks to fresh investment by Suffolk leaders.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) granted Suffolk authorities £770,000 in emergency assistance grants to hand out to families, largely between the start of August and end of October.
But Suffolk Public Sector Leaders – a gathering of all of the county’s council leaders and chief executives – on Friday gave the green light for £800,000 to be provided from retained business rates to continue the Local Welfare Assistance Scheme for 12 months.
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The grant has helped support families by funding items like school uniforms, essential furniture, fuel vouchers, rent arrears, food and other essentials like baby products and gloves or masks.
Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said: “There is some amazing work being done through this fund.
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“The effects of the virus, the economic effects, are hitting a lot of people who probably didn’t expect to be in this position and there are families finding out that the safety net is perhaps a bit more threadbare than they anticipated.
“It’s absolutely vital we are doing this.”
The project officers are monitoring the areas where most need is being sought to identify trends and help plan for additional support in those areas.
In particular, it is expected that food parcels and debt advice will be sought from those who may have been furloughed, made redundant or who have found the Covid-19 situation has exacerbated existing money struggles.
Currently 69 organisations are signed up as ‘gateway’ organisations to take referrals, but the plan is for a single point of access to make the process simpler from October.
Christine Geeson from the county council, who is overseeing the project, said: “The impact on our economy has inevitably led to a greater impact on the individuals living in Suffolk with regard to hardship.
“That is not just for those individuals who were previously just about managing before Covid, actually for some individuals and families who were comfortably off before Covid and have now found themselves in very different circumstances.”
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