Food vouchers will be issued to struggling families this half-term

Councillor Richard Roberts, leader of Hertfordshire County Council

Councillor Richard Roberts, leader of Hertfordshire County Council, welcomed the additional support for families this winter - Credit: Hertfordshire County Council

Struggling Hertfordshire families with children will be eligible for additional financial support from the county council over the upcoming school holidays.

With rises in unemployment, increases in fuel costs and changes to Universal Credit the number of families facing financial uncertainty in the county has increased.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits has more than doubled since the start of the pandemic, and over the past year the number of families eligible for free school meals has increased by more than 12 per cent – to 27,003.

In recent months the county council has made vouchers available to families eligible for free school meals during the holidays. That support had been expected to end after the summer holidays.

But now the county council is drawing up plans to extend the voucher scheme until January – after being awarded £6.172million from the government’s ‘household support fund’.

The support is just one of a number of ways that the £6million will be used in the county, between now and March next year.

Leader of the county council Cllr Richard Roberts said: “I am delighted that the government wants to support families like this.

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“It is one-off funding, so it’s not guaranteed for the future – but it will be so welcome for those families that qualify for it.”

“I think for some families it could be the difference between coping and not coping.”

Cllr Roberts says it will build on the £180m already spent by the county council in supporting families.

And with the additional £6m, he says: “We can do an awful lot with this scale of funding – working with the districts and borough partners.”

So far, county council officials have committed to making the holiday voucher support available during the autumn half-term and Christmas holidays. Eligible families will be sent a voucher code directly by email.

Nationally £500m is being made available by the government to councils through the ‘household support fund’.

The fund is available for use over winter – and is designed to help households in the most need with grants for items such as food, clothing and utilities.