By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
More than £3m in Government funding is set to help struggling Nottinghamshire families until March – but concerns have been raised about what support will be available after the pandemic.
In autumn, Nottinghamshire County Council was allocated £5.6m to support those in “immediate need” during the pandemic through food, energy and water bills and other essential costs.
The funding must be spent by March 2022 – but a councillor raised concerns during a Communities Committee on January 26, saying “once Covid has gone, poverty still exists”.
A total of £2.3m of the funding was used to provide food vouchers to children entitled to Free School Meals for each of the five school holiday weeks between October and the end of March.
The remaining £3.3m is now being spent by the authority.
Mark Walker, Group Manager, Trading Standards and Communities, said as of January 24, 6,233 households had received a total of £477,545 split between food and energy costs.
He said nearly a quarter of the pot had gone into Ashfield while Bassetlaw had received 7.7 per cent of the funding.
Councillor Glynn Gilfoyle (Lab) said: “Clearly Covid has highlighted the state of poverty which is out there in the Nottinghamshire community.
“My concern is once this money is finished, what is going to be there to support the families that are still suffering from poverty?
“It is an ongoing problem, it is not going to end on March 31, it is still going to be there.
“Is there more money that is going to be made available for the longer term for those individuals? We need to be helping.
“I really support it but I am concerned for the future. Once Covid has gone, poverty still exists.”
Mr Walker responded: “We are working within the Government framework and the funding period ends on March 31 so we have to deploy the funding by that point.”
The authority has also decided to open the Household Support Fund for residents to apply directly for financial assistance without the need to be referred through a professional.
Councillor John Cottee, chairman of the county council’s Communities Committee, said: “We recognise that a significant number of residents and households across Nottinghamshire have experienced immense difficulties throughout the past two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Therefore, I sincerely hope speeding up the process of how we provide support to people most in need by enabling them to make an application directly to the Household Support Fund, will help to alleviate some of the financial worries they are currently facing.”
Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the recommendations to establish three temporary roles to help with the delivery of the funding before the scheme ends in March.