Brighton and Hove News »Food stamps and emergency grants to tackle winter financial woes


Hove Town Hall

Advisers were divided over how to use more than £ 2million in government money to support those in need during the winter.

Labor and Green councilors disagreed on how much money should go to families in Brighton and Hove to cover food stamps during the school holidays.

At the Policy and Resources (Resume) subcommittee on Thursday 4 November, labor advisers lobbied to increase the value of vouchers given to underprivileged families from £ 15 to £ 20.

But the Greens said it was important to also fund a kitty for emergency grants.

At least half of the government’s £ 2.1million household support fund must be spent on children.

The council plans to spend more than £ 750,000 on vouchers of £ 15 per week, per child, for low-income families covering the October and February semesters and the Christmas and Easter holidays.

Families whose children benefit from free school meals or those who have early childhood vouchers for childcare and Early Years Premium are eligible for the vouchers.

The second largest amount, £ 404,000, is for the Local Discretionary Fund to pay for basic necessities for needy households, ranging from gas and electricity to essentials such as replacing refrigerators or even payment. emergency bills.

Labor group co-leader John Allcock has asked for £ 20 vouchers to help offset the loss of £ 20 per week for families receiving universal credit.

He pointed out that £ 20 per week represents a loss of £ 1,040 per year for disadvantaged families.

Since May 2019 and May of this year, the number of children entitled to free school meals has increased by 1,628, with 6,568 young people entitled to service across the city.

Councilor Allcock said children in poorer households eat less fruit and vegetables and parents are more likely to buy a narrow range of food to avoid waste.

He said: ‘I’m sure we all agree that it would be very difficult to feed a family with, say, starving 11 and 14 year olds on £ 30 a week so I think l The proposed £ 15 voucher allowance was set too low.

“Of course, families need other resources to survive as well as food. So our proposal to increase the vouchers to £ 20 will also allow more flexibility in the household budget for other essentials at this time of year, such as fuel and warm clothes. “

His Labor co-leader Carmen Appich has spoken out in favor of increased funding for vouchers and also more money for the emergency Heat and Welfare program.

The program provides multi-agency advice from Money Advice, Citizens Advice and Brighton and Hove Energy Services Co-operative (BHESCO). It includes emergency energy top-up payments for people using key meters and free home energy surveys.

She said, “When I was a struggling young single mom back then, it would make a huge difference to me.

“There was a time when you made the choice to feed your child properly or to eat yourself. I was quite skinny at the time because I made the choice to feed my child.

Deputy Green Council chief Hannah Clare said the two groups had the same goal and agreed with what the Labor group had said but wanted to take a different approach.

She said council officers had worked with the community and the voluntary sector to create a “good balance” to support as many people as possible.

Speaking in support of the discretionary grant funding, Councilor Clare said, “If your refrigerator or oven breaks down then it’s a big deal, a big one-time cost that you have to pay.

“Having that funding there is really vital, but it’s a significant one-time cost. To help as many people as possible, you need as much money as possible.

“By providing money for these appliances or these fuel bills, you will also help them have more money for food.”

Green Council chief adviser Phélim Mac Cafferty said he understands Labor’s intention, but expanding food stamps will not go to all who need help lifting themselves out of poverty .

He said: “The government has cast another plaster on the huge problem. This is another short-sighted approach to poverty.

“They think spending money on food stamps will tackle the low wages and all the wage stagnation that we know the whole country is suffering from.

“Either way, throwing this money away will tackle rising housing costs and fuel bills or the cruel decision to cut £ 20 from universal credit.”

Councilor Mac Cafferty said people could micromanage every penny, but when the refrigerator or their car breaks down, they shouldn’t have to go “scam” the loan companies.

The Labor amendment was not passed and the vouchers will remain at £ 15 per week per child during the holidays.

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