Support will also be available for those struggling to pay winter heating and water costs after Staffordshire County Council was given £5.5m from the Government’s Household Support Fund (HSF) to help residents needing financial assistance over the coming months.
Families with children eligible for free school meals will receive £15 vouchers for each week of the Christmas, February and Easter holidays, which can be redeemed at Aldi, Asda, Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, M&S and Waitrose.
Assistance grants for food and essential supplies will also be available for those facing “substantial financial hardship”, a report to the council’s cabinet said, while the Winter Warmth project will provide financial support for energy costs for residents struggling to pay bills or dealing with a breakdown of their heating system.
And district and borough councils across Staffordshire will be given a share of the HSF to support households with council tax debt.
Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “For the last 12 months we have been supporting thousands of children – and their families – though school holidays with either the distribution of e-vouchers to parents, or the provision of food and activities across the county.
“Now this latest money from the Department of Work and Pensions will help around 29,000 children and the households most in need of support with their food, energy and water bills this winter.
“We will be publicising soon how people can access this support and I would urge everyone who is eligible to apply for it as all the money must be allocated by the end of March.”
Cabinet members unanimously backed the latest support scheme at a meeting on Wednesday.
Council leader Alan White said Councillor Sutton had blazed a trail with the county’s voucher scheme last year.
He added: “It came at some cost to me in the political sphere from people who thought we were too far ahead of the game.”
Councillor Victoria Wilson said: “I wholeheartedly support this, it’s fantastic for those who are in need of help over the winter months. It is a real lifeline.”
Councillor Simon Tagg said: “I welcome this. I think this is crucial because we have come out of such a big shock with Covid – it’s affected the environment, jobs, lives and social cohesion.
“It’s the right thing to do, particularly as we approach the winter. I welcome the council tax debt money that will go to the districts, that’s often the first indication of people getting into trouble financially. We can really do some good work with that money in the districts to help people.
“The county council’s got a proud record in this area – we’re ahead of the game in terms of the vouchers for lunches. When there was a lot of national hoo ha going on about it we were delivering here.
“I’m sure we can use this money to really make a difference for families in Staffordshire.”