We recognise that this has been a challenging year for everyone, especially for those who have lost their jobs and those families who are feeling the extra strain, worrying about putting food on the table or money in the meter.
The Prime Minister has been clear that this Government will use all their efforts to make sure that no child should go hungry this winter. This Government also want to ensure that every child reaches their full potential.
That is why I am announcing a comprehensive package of support to see these families through the winter months and beyond, through the new Covid winter grant scheme, increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers, and the national roll-out of the holiday activities and food programme for the longer holidays in 2021.
With Christmas coming, we want to give disadvantaged families peace of mind and help those who need it to have food on the table and other essentials so that every child will be warm and well fed this winter.
Through the Covid winter grant scheme, we are delivering £170m to local authorities in England, starting next month, to cover the period until the end of March. That fund builds on the £63m already distributed earlier this year.
Local councils have the local ties and knowledge, making them best placed to identify and help those children and families most in need, and it is important to stress that the scheme covers children of pre-school age, too. Targeting this money effectively will ease the burden faced by those families across the country worrying about the next bill coming through the letterbox or the next food shop.
We will require that at least 80 per cent of the grant is spent on children with their families, providing some flexibility for councils to help other vulnerable people. We will also require councils to spend at least 80 per cent on food and key utilities, again providing some flexibility for other essentials.
In trying to give children the best start in life, it is important that food for young children and expectant mothers should be nutritious, as that will help in their future health and educational attainment.
That is why we are increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers by more than a third, helping low-income families to buy fresh milk and fruit and vegetables, and helping to boost their health and readiness for school. From April 2021, the value of vouchers will rise from £3.10 to £4.25.
The third part of our comprehensive package is the extra support we will be giving children and families during the longer school holidays. After successful pilots of our holiday activities and food programme, it will be expanded and rolled out across the country starting from Easter next year, through the summer and the Christmas holidays, supported by £220m of funding.
Our manifesto set out our commitment to flexible childcare, and the expansion of the holiday activities and food programme has always been part of that commitment. We are building on the learning from the successful delivery of the programme over the past three years to expand it across England, as we had set out to do.
The programme offers that vital connection for children during the longer school holidays to enriching activities such as arts and sport which will help them perform better in school, as well as a free, nutritious meal while they are there.
We are living under extraordinary circumstances, but I am steadfast in taking action to support all children to fulfil their potential long after we have beaten the pandemic. Social justice has been at the heart of every decision this compassionate Conservative Government have made, whether that be protecting over 12 million jobs through our income support schemes, injecting over £9bn into the welfare system or providing over four million food boxes to those shielding. This is yet another example of how the Government have supported people throughout the pandemic.
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