A Burntwood councillor says the way a scheme providing vouchers to support local residents during the coronavirus has been communicated may be putting people off applying for help.

Cllr Sue Woodward

Cllr Sue Woodward said £600,000 of the £870,000 received from the Government by Staffordshire County Council in August had been earmarked for helping people struggling to pay for food.

But she said the take up of £15 vouchers showed a rethink was needed.

Cllr Woodward said:

“It took quite a while but the council eventually received £870,000 from Government for helping people who needed some financial support to meet food and other bills.

“From this, £600,000 was allocated for food supplies and food vouchers, yet less than 1,300 of these £15 vouchers have yet gone out to households in need – less than 4% of the aid available.”

Cllr Sue Woodward, Staffordshire County Council

The figures revealed that 205 of the food vouchers had been issued so far in Lichfield and Burntwood.

Cllr Mark Sutton, cabinet member for children and young people, said the county council was keen to ensure the funding would be available over the coming year.

“The Emergency Assistance Grant for Food and Emergency Supplies made it clear that local authorities had discretion on how we identify those most in need.

“As a result, we have used a broad definition to include those entitled to benefits or those who people identified in immediate need of help and those who are struggling to afford food and essentials due to COVID-19.

“The Government did anticipate that most of the funding will be spent within 12 weeks. However, in Staffordshire we were keen to ensure that funds were available to allow for flexibility to use as slightly longer-term support.

“There has been an increase in the number of referrals in the last 2 weeks which has seen the distribution of these vouchers double within this time and we continue to seek members’ support to promote this scheme to local residents who may need assistance.”

Cllr Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council

Cllr Woodward said Cllr Sutton had agreed to look at thew way the scheme has been communicated across Staffordshire.

“My concern is that the scheme is badged as ’emergency’ assistance.

“This implies a serious and urgent crisis and people who could benefit are put off by this and carry on managing even though their finances are very tight and becoming tighter.

“I think it’s important to get the message out and encourage eligible households to apply via the local Family Hubs.”

Cllr Sue Woodward, Staffordshire County Council

Details about how to access support from the scheme are available online.

Ross

Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.

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