FAMILIES left struggling financially in the pandemic are to be offered £20 extra to pay their household bills, on top of the Government’s high-profile supermarket vouchers scheme.

A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s executive heard the Government had announced further funding to extend the Covid Winter Grant Scheme until the April 16.

However, as the authority had already budgeted for providing vulnerable families with £15 a week per child for food during the Easter holidays, despite it costing the authority an additional £150,000, schools would be given further a greater amount of flexibility to help families pay for essentials.

When the winter funding scheme was announced in November the council decided to broaden the scheme to include other children and families in North Yorkshire who may be struggling.

The scheme has also covered children in early years provision and those in post-16 education, care leavers living independently or semi-independently, those in supported lodgings and people living in independent emergency accommodation.

Schools in North Yorkshire have discretion over whether to use a voucher scheme to distribute free school meals to those children who are eligible, or make different arrangements, the vast majority have done so.

Some 80 per cent of the funding is ring-fenced to provide the hardest hit families and other individuals with financial support for food and essential utility bills and specifically provide food for children who need it over the holidays.

The council’s director for children’s services, Stuart Carlton proposed spending the latest Government funding “wisely and to the full extent”, and that the council should provide eligible families with a one-off payment of £20 each to help with household bills, such as fuel. Mr Carlton said it would give schools the ability to provide financial help to families that are “just about managing or they are concerned about”.

The authority’s deputy leader, Councillor Gareth Dadd said he was particularly pleased to see schools given extra flexibility to help families in need, as they were best placed to identify where it would make the biggest difference. He said: “Quite often there are those who fall through the cracks. This will help hard-working people who are perhaps just having a little bit of a bad time of it.”