What is the Covid Winter Grant Scheme and how to apply for free cash help if you're struggling

MILLIONS of pounds has been made available to help people in financial need because of Covid.

Many local councils are handing out cash this winter so those struggling can eat and heat their homes – here's how it works and how you can get cash from the Covid Winter Grant Scheme.

Coronavirus has hit people's finances hard, with unemployment rocketing and many struggling to make ends meet, especially during the latest lockdown when kids are being home schooled.

There's a range of support for people experiencing money troubles, like furlough, self-isolation payments of £500 and a ban on home repossessions among other things.

The Winter Support Grant is one way to get help and it offers as much as £150 in some areas to cover food costs.

What is the Winter Support Grant?

The Covid Winter Grant Scheme was first announced by the government in November 2020 to help vulnerable households.

The grant is a pot of money worth £170m which has been handed out to local authorities across England to support people who are struggling in a number of ways.

This cash is also being used to help feed kids on free school meals over the February half-term instead of schools providing vouchers like they did last year over Easter and Summer holidays.

How to get help for free

THERE are lots of groups who can help you with your problem debts.

  • Citizens Advice – 0808 800 9060
  • StepChange – 0800 138 1111
  • National Debtline – 0808 808 4000
  • Debt Advice Foundation – 0800 043 4050

You can also find information about Debt Management Plans (DMP) and Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA) on the Money Advice Service website and on the Government's Gov.uk site.

Speak to one of these organisations – don't be tempted to use a claims management firm that will claim it can write-off lots of your debts in return for a large up-front fee.

Different areas have been given different amounts of cash depending on their size and how many people are struggling.

For example, Birmingham has been given the most – £3.8million in total.

While the posh London borough of Richmond has been given £337,000, among the lowest amounts given.

Each council can decide how the cash is used and who is eligible for the support.

But broadly the government has said at least 80% of the cash must go towards families with children and the remaining money should go to other households in poverty, or at risk of poverty because of the pandemic.

And at least 80% of the cash must go towards helping with food, energy and water bills, while the remaining money can be spent on related essentials.

This includes warm clothes and blankets, toiletries like soap and sanitary towels, boiler repairs and services and buying equipment like fridges or ovens.

How do I get free cash from the Winter Support Grant?

The support you can get depends on where you live and it's best to contact your local authority directly to ask what help you can get.

If you're struggling and need help with food or bills it's worth asking what's available.

It's up to each council to decide who is eligible for the help and the kind of support they get.

In some areas you can apply directly to the council for money to pay for food or bills.

For example, in Sutton families can get up to £150 worth of food vouchers, while Hertfordshire is issuing vouchers worth £75.

Some local authorities are providing vouchers to families they already know are on low incomes and no application is needed.

In other areas the money is funding existing schemes that are supporting people locally, such as food banks.

Many local authorities are doing a combination of these things.

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