Winter can be a tough time financially for many and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown are putting added pressure on many people’s circumstances. BCP Council and our partners are urging people not to suffer in silence if they are in financial crisis and reach out for the support that is available.
In December we launched our Winter Support campaign following receiving funding from the governments COVID-19 Winter Grant Scheme. This large-scale community effort continues to help people who are struggling financially access help to get food, via vouchers, local food banks, food pantries and community fridges. The Winter Support scheme is also providing help those that are struggling to afford utility bill payments during the winter months.
Since we launched the campaign, we’ve been contacted by 455 residents by phone or contact form for winter support. To date, 610 individuals and families across the BCP area have been provided with food vouchers (including those who had contacted the family information service directly) and 103 households have received help to stay warm this winter, from winter support grant funding.
BCP Council has also worked with 96 schools, 2 colleges and our early years providers to ensure that children in the BCP area had access to food over the Christmas school holidays, provided vouchers for food to around 9,000 children. These vouchers will also be provided for the upcoming February half term.
In December 2020 over 950 Food Bank vouchers were issued across the BCP area from a range of community providers, giving food for more than 2500 individuals.
Support from the Winter Grant Scheme includes:
- Access to food voucher for children and families who are eligible for free school meals, during school holidays, via their schools
- Support for other households and residents struggling with food costs
- Increased support for local food banks and community food support including pantries and community fridges, working with Dorset Community Foundation to provide grants to the community and voluntary sector
- Support for residents who are struggling to pay utility bills and costs associated with keeping warm during the winter months through a dedicated helpline for fuel support led by BCP Citizens Advice
- Support to access food for vulnerable households that may be self-isolating with no other support networks to help with food shopping, delivered through the Together We Can helpline.
Councillor Nicola Greene, Portfolio Holder for Covid Resilience, Public Health and Education, said: “This winter is a particularly difficult one for many, we know that there are many families and individuals across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole who will be struggling.
“We are continuing to provide help and information to those who need help accessing food and financial support this winter. We urge anybody struggling to get what they need because of the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdown, or financial difficulty to please get in touch.”
General help, advice and information can be found on our website bcpcouncil.gov.uk/helpwintersupport
Ways to access support:
- For help accessing food if you are affected by the pandemic call the Together We Can helpline: 0300 1237052 (Mon – Fri / 9am – 5pm)
- If you are a family looking for support with food costs, or a family / individual seeking Winter Warmth utility bill support call the Citizens Advice helpline 01202 081 732 (Mon – Fri / 10am – 4pm)
- Information on accessing food help and a map of places offering community food support: bcpcouncil.gov.uk/communityfood
If residents wish to help their local community by donating food and other items or volunteering, please visit: bcpcouncil.gov.uk/helpwintersupport
Notes to the editor:
- The winter support scheme follows a recent allocation of £1,068,327.58 to the council from the government’s COVID Winter Grant Scheme to ensure vulnerable residents can access the support they need to address food and energy poverty over the winter period.
- Together We Can is an initiative led by BCP Council, working in close partnership with many other public, private and voluntary sector organisations. We're joined by community groups and residents who have offered to help and support the vulnerable people in our Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole communities to get through the coronavirus crisis. Find out more about Together We Can support: bcpcouncil.gov.uk/togetherwecan