Elderly in county to receive almost £1.5 million in food vouchers
General / Tue 23rd Aug 2022 at 07:26am
SOME of the poorest pensioners in the county will receive almost £1.5 million in food vouchers after initial plans to deliver help through districts were found to not be working reports the Local Democracy Service.
Instead the county council is increasing its support through its current contract with Wonde – which is already contracted to deliver a £4.2m element of the Household Support Fund through the supply of supermarket vouchers, with a value of £15 per child per week, for the 2022 May and summer holidays.
It means £1.45m of the £3.212m Household Support Fund grant for qualifying pensioners – that was initially meant to be allocated through district, borough and city councils – will now also be provided through food vouchers worth £80.
It means the total value of those vouchers distributed through Wonde is to increase from £4.245m to £5.695m.
The grant must be spent by September 30 2022.
Essex County Council says this decision will ensure that all eligible pension households will be in receipt of either £80 direct into their bank account or through the issuing of a food voucher of the exact same value.
The Household Support Fund grant allocation of £3.212m for pensioners in Essex from the Department for Work and Pensions was planned so £80 could be given to households with a person who has reached state pension age by September 30 2022 and who would otherwise struggle to buy food or pay essential utility bills or meet other essential living costs due to rising living costs through districts, boroughs and city councils.
But it has now been established that while lower tier authorities can identify which households have a pensioner in receipt of means tested benefit or council tax support, it is not possible for most of the councils to pay direct into bank accounts of every single one of the identified pension households the £80 that was agreed.
Essex County Council now plans that the £1.45m of the £3.212m funding that was initially to be allocated to lower tier housing authorities should now be provided to Wonde who are already contracted to support other delivery elements of the Household Support Fund through the supply of supermarket vouchers.
The vouchers will be tailored so they are issued to the household’s closest retailer, where they can take their paper e-gift card to be scanned in store.
The vouchers can be spent in Asda, Morrisons, Aldi, Tesco, Sainsbury’s Iceland, Waitrose, Farmfoods, M&S and B&M.
The remaining 1,762m will be awarded to districts for them to distribute to those people who can be paid via banks.
A statement as part of a decision notice set to be agreed in the coming days said: “The original agreement with and for distribution of funds via the districts/boroughs/cities has not, for reasons beyond our control, come to fruition and so it is imperative that we act with urgency to get funding to the eligible pension households.
“It is unfortunate that the initially positive discussions with partner authorities have been unable to result in a successful way for them to distribute the funding, meaning that Essex County Council has had to make arrangements quickly meant that we have had to act urgently to find our own way of distributing the funding within the timescale.”
Other Allocations from the total Household Support Fund worth about £10m includes uplifts for the Essential Living Fund, a scheme managed on behalf of the county council by Southend Borough Council that provides general living expenses, furniture, household furnishings, white goods, clothing and other essential goods and around £500k for support for unpaid carers, vulnerable adults and targeted family support delivered through locally trusted voluntary and community sector organisations and foodbanks to support children and their families.
Not often you see a council acting in urgency, so well done Essex County Council.
Whereas I applaud any help for pensioners, not every pensioner receives extra benefits now or food deliveries for many reasons even though they are also on the breadline so they will once again slip through the net.