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Vulnerable people affected by pandemic to benefit from government funding

Local people struggling to afford food and essential supplies due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will be able to benefit from grant funding from the Government.

Published: Tuesday, 6th October 2020
Harbour Project DEFRA food grant

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has given Swindon Borough Council a grant of £227,827 in order to help vulnerable residents in its communities.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the Council and a number of local organisations have been providing food to those ‘shielding’ and to those unable to afford to pay for food.

Over the last six months alone, the Council’s Emergency Assistance Fund has helped 291 people, while the Live Well Hub has distributed 625 free food parcels to residents who could not afford to pay for their food and had no-one to look after them.

The DEFRA funding has been provided to allow the Council and local groups to continue to provide this help to those that need it.

The Council’s Hardship and Social Enterprise Groups have been working to identify the local groups providing assistance and the numbers of residents that they have been helping.

 As a result, the grant has been awarded to the following council schemes and organisations:

  • Swindon Borough Council Emergency Assistance Fund – the Fund provides food, electric, heating and essential furniture to low income households with urgent domestic circumstances
  • Swindon Borough Council Live Well Hub - provides food to residents who were/are shielding or in isolation that are assessed as being unable to afford to pay.
  • Infection Control Food Fund – This will provide food for individuals or households where someone has tested positive for COVID-19 as confirmed and referred by Public Health. The Fund helps people who have to stay away from work and who are facing short-term financial hardship due to having no income (e.g. on zero hours contract work or limited statutory sick pay). This fund will work together with the Council team awarding the recently announced Test and Trace payments, which will be paid to those on low incomes who have to isolate and who cannot go to work. This will go live at the beginning of October.
  • Swindon Food Collective - currently provides food for 600 people a month and bulk food donations to several organisations including the Harbour Project, Booth House and other hostels and local homeless charities.
  • Swindon Scrapstore - provides an average of 20 food parcels per week to vulnerable households who are referred by council staff and advice agency staff.
  • Swindon Night Shelter– provides 30 to 50 food boxes per week to people presenting to the Night Shelter as homeless.
  • Harbour Project – funding will enable the charity to provide dozens of food parcels a week to those without recourse to public funds and to those who have lost their jobs and have no benefits in payment.
  • Bags/Boxes of Hope – Gorse Hill Baptist Church – has provided approximately 40-45 boxes per week to individuals or families in need with reduced income or loss of employment. Referrals are made from schools, the Council’s housing and social care teams, and other churches.
  • Swindon Carers Centre - Has provided one-off food parcels to individuals and families supported by Swindon Carers (around 2-3 per week on average)

Councillor Russell Holland, Deputy Leader of Swindon Borough Council and the Cabinet Member for Commercialisation and Education and Skills, said: “I'm really proud of everyone across Swindon who has stepped up to go the extra mile to help others in need during these difficult times.

“They have provided a lifeline to so many people and I would like to thank them for everything they have done and continue to do for our vulnerable residents.

“I’m really pleased the Government has recognised the work of these organisations and this grant funding will go a long way to ensuring they continue to provide the support to those that need it.”

Susanna Jones, Chief Executive of Swindon Carers Centre, said: “We are seeing an increase in calls to our Welfare Benefits team at Swindon Carers Centre as the financial impact of COVID-19 hits our communities.

“We will be using this DEFRA funding for food vouchers for some of our most vulnerable carers to support at what is an incredibly difficult time for many people with unpaid caring responsibilities.”

Claire Garrett, Chief Executive Officer of The Harbour Project, which supports refugees and asylum seekers, said the charity and its volunteers had so far distributed almost 600 food parcels.

“As we head into colder months and waves of localised lockdowns across the country, with the help of the grant from DEFRA, we will be able to re-start food parcel deliveries,” explained Claire.

“Around 70 to 80 parcels will go out each week – some to families and some to people living on their own. Each person receives a parcel every two weeks. The parcels contain basic items such as rice, pasta, tinned vegetables sugar and tea, along with some cleaning products and toiletries.

“Food is about sustenance. But it is also about connection with the most vulnerable, lonely and isolated within our community.”

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