City Council announces winter support grant scheme

Published: Wednesday, 16th December 2020

Families and households in hardship in Oxford will get a boost this winter from the Winter Support Grant scheme, a partnership scheme agreed between Oxfordshire’s City, County and District Councils.

The scheme is part of the Government’s £170m funding to support vulnerable people across the country this winter. Oxford has received £133,690 on top of the County Council’s funding that will deliver free school meals through the Christmas, February and Easter school holidays.

The Government funding rules say that 80% should go to families with children, and also that 80% should go to support people with food and bills. The funds are to support families with children, vulnerable households and individuals, and cannot be used to fund advice services or housing related costs.

The Council is allocating the funding to organisations across the city that support the vulnerable.

  • £15,000 is allocated to SOFEA, the Didcot-based charity that supports community food larders in Oxford, to support paid membership for those struggling to afford it
  • £30,000 is being offered to Oxford’s advice centres, often the first point of contact for people in difficulty, to help people with food, heating, and utilities costs and other household essentials.
  • £30,000 to the Council’s locality hubs to offer direct support to households, including supermarket vouchers, essential supplies and support with fuel and utility bills. This support will be provided through a referral process to make sure we can help those in the greatest need.
  • £40,000 for community group grants to support organisations helping their local communities. Grants will be capped at £2,000 for local groups or £5,000 for city-wide organisations.

The locality hubs that the Council set up in response to lockdown have been working closely in the community to build partnerships and support residents through the pandemic. Their knowledge of their communities and local support organisations has been used to help the council allocate the funding as effectively as possible to get help to those who need it most.

Over 3,000 people have been identified as vulnerable through the help offered by Oxford Together, a partnership between the Council and Oxford Hub in response to the pandemic. Council data also shows nearly 3,000 children in Oxford are registered for free school meals, and over 4,500 people claim Universal Credit.

As well as the Winter Support Grants and free school meals vouchers, there is also financial assistance for those on low-income who need to self-isolate. A £500 payment is available to cover lost income for low-income individuals who test positive or are told to self-isolate by the Test and Trace system.

“The financial effects of the pandemic on families and individuals has been devastating for many. This is welcome funding to support people with the most basic essentials of food and bills, and we’re working hard with partners to make sure it helps those most in need throughout the winter months. If you need help please get in touch.”

“However, this is a one-off fund from the government for winter hardship; much more is needed to tackle poverty effecting over 4 million children in the UK. Government must take urgent action to address this by developing a long term strategy to tackle food poverty, including holiday hunger, making a commitment to keep the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit beyond April and extend it to those on legacy benefits. We know that poverty affects children's health and wellbeing as well as educational attainment. After a decade of austerity and the widening inequality caused by the pandemic, the government must also increase investment in children’s services and local welfare assistance.”

Councillor Marie Tidball, Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities

The Winter Support Grant funds will be available from the 21 December until the end of March 2021. Community groups wanting to apply for support grants will be able to find details online from 21 December 2020 on our Grants pages, and individuals needing help can contact the Council or their local advice centre. The advice centres are expected to be Oxford Citizens Advice Bureau, Agnes Smith Advice Centre, Oxfordshire Welfare Rights and Rose Hill Advice Centre.

Help is available now, those in need can call the Council on 01865 249 811.