Hitchin: Marcus Rashford's campaign still reverberates as councillors agree to £50 voucher scheme for struggling families this summer

  Posted: 20.07.21 at 11:03 by Deborah Price and Layth Yousif

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STRUGGLING families with children in Hertfordshire, including Hitchin, who are facing financial difficulties will be able to claim a £50 voucher over the summer holidays.

The voucher scheme is part of a £2.3m package of measures drawn-up by the county council, which has received an allocation from the government’s ‘Covid Local Support Grant’.

The grant, introduced in December, is designed to help families struggling with food and utility costs during the pandemic.

Hitchin Nub News was retweeted by social activist and England forward Marcus Rashford.

Our story on Chicken George's kind offer to feed hungry children last year was picked up by the Manchester United during his campaign - which persuaded the government to do a U-turn on its policy.

And at a meeting of the cabinet on Monday (July 12) councillors agreed how the funds allocated to Hertfordshire should be used.

The lion’s share – £1.72m – will be used to offer £50 vouchers to the 34,000 Hertfordshire families who are eligible for benefit related free school meals, for free two-year-old education and childcare or for ‘early years pupil premium’.

A further £445,000 earmarked for the support adults and £194,850 to support families and children will be passed on to other organisations, such as food banks the HertsHelp crisis intervention service.

Backing the plans at the meeting, executive member for children, young people and families Cllr Teresa Heritage said: “This funding builds on the £4m already received from the government to support the most vulnerable in our society over the Covid period.

“And it is also in addition to the £2.79m that we have received from government for food and holiday activity programme this year.

“So it is a tremendous amount of support that young people who are in receipt of free school meals can participate in.”

The county council has previously been allocated £2.9m in Covid Winter Support Grant (Dec to March) and £1.1 of Covid Local Support Grant (for Apr to June).

And over the summer holidays the county council is also running a ‘Holiday Activities and Food’ programme – known as HAPpy.

HAPpy will offer up to 16 days of activity and childcare – with a meal – for the equivalent of 6200 children and young people.

Cllr Heritage told the cabinet there were plans for around 80,000 HAPpy slots over the summer holidays – pointing to the involvement of groups such as the Hertfordshire Sports Partnership and the Hertfordshire Community Foundation.

Leader of the county council Cllr Richard Roberts welcomed the additional support for children – suggesting it could have a real impact when they return to the classroom, in September.

He said: “This is entirely consistent with the recovery strategy – with supporting families, with supporting children during the summer holidays so they can maintain activity levels.

“We know that we have children that we need to get back on track academically.

“So if our children come back into education in September fighting fit and ready to go, more opportunity to really increase the learning in September onwards.”

According to the report to the cabinet, the council has entered into an agreement with Edenred, in order to make the issuing and redeeming of vouchers ‘more straightforward’.

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