UP to £1.4m extra is being ploughed into helping provide food and support to families and vulnerable people across North Yorkshire who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

The money is coming through the County Council and includes a food voucher scheme to ensure children eligible for Free School Meals get food over the Christmas holidays and into next year. The authority is also widening help to include other children and families in early years schemes and post-16 education who may be struggling.

The value of supermarket vouchers will be £20 per child, per week for families. It's being paid through the Government’s national £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme and will be allocated through schools and academies, with grants for supermarket vouchers for eligible children. They will also have discretion to allocate supermarket vouchers to children from families who may not have enough income to cover essentials.

It runs from November until March 2021 with 80 per cent ring-fenced to provide the hardest hit with financial support for food and essential utility bills.

Cllr Patrick Mulligan, Executive Member for Education and Skills said: "We know the pandemic has impacted many businesses and jobs in North Yorkshire and many families need additional help in getting through the coming months. The scheme will provide for children on Free School Meals but will also help other families struggling to cover the cost of food and essential utilities.

"Schools are in a unique position to identify which children are in need of support and where there are families struggling, so we will be giving them the discretion to allocate the supermarket vouchers to those most in need.

Distribution will start in the next few weeks. Council leader, Cllr Carl Les added: "The pandemic has changed every aspect of life as we know it over the best part of a year. We know many people have seen incomes fall, and as we head into Christmas and winter, people are concerned about feeding their families.We have additional funding from the Department for Education to expand our holiday activities and food programmes and increased funding to provide further aid to local charities. The value of Health Start programme vouchers has also been increased for families on low incomes."