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Norfolk County Council launches £7.7 million cost of living support programme



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Norfolk County Council leaders have today unveiled a multi-million pound support plan intended to help people struggling with the rising cost of living.

Nearly half of the funds will provide vouchers for families receiving free school meals until the autumn – only weeks after the authority refused to provide similar support in the Easter holidays.

The plan also includes support for older people, as well as funding to address housing concerns.

Norfolk County Council County Hall (55757657)
Norfolk County Council County Hall (55757657)

A total of £7.7 million has been allocated to the Cost of Living Support Scheme, most of which has come from central government.

County Hall chiefs say they are also investing £1 million of council funds in the project, plus a further £225,000 into the Norfolk Community Foundation's Nourishing Norfolk food hub programme.

The authority has been roundly criticised in recent weeks for failing to provide holiday vouchers to families in receipt of free school meals over Easter and its refusal to debate the issue at a meeting – a move which led to a mass walkout by opposition members.

Children who receive free school meals are set to be helped by Norfolk County Council, despite the authority refusing to provide vouchers at Easter.
Children who receive free school meals are set to be helped by Norfolk County Council, despite the authority refusing to provide vouchers at Easter.

Council leader Andrew Proctor said today: "We’ve created a new scheme that is flexible and can reach a broader range of people than previous hardship schemes.

"This includes families in need, older people and other vulnerable households.

"Our new scheme builds on what has worked previously but is able to reach a much wider group of residents, in-line with Government guidance."

The largest share of the fund, £3.6 million, will be used to provide seven monthly cost of living vouchers for families in receipt of free school meals.

Andrew Proctor. (44831638)
Andrew Proctor. (44831638)

The vouchers, which are being backdated to April, are worth £15 a month for each month until October, except for August when £30 is provided.

The council says families can also choose to use the vouchers solely in the school holidays if they wish.

A further £1 million will also be given to the Norfolk Assistance Scheme to support families in hardship who are not eligible for free school meals.

Alexandra Kemp, seen here, left, with residents and Cornerstone cafe trustees during a school lunch offer last month, says new support plans are not enough.
Alexandra Kemp, seen here, left, with residents and Cornerstone cafe trustees during a school lunch offer last month, says new support plans are not enough.

Elsewhere, £2.2 million is set to be used to help the over-65s, including a partnership with Anglian Water which aims to prevent or reduce burdens of debt. District authorities will be given £700,000 of the money.

And a further £840,000 will support others in need, including with immediate housing concerns.

But the package, which has been announced while votes are being counted in local elections in some parts of the county, has not been universally welcomed.

Independent councillor Alexandra Kemp said the administration was still not doing enough to tackle the crisis.

And Liberal Democrat councillor Rob Colwell said it was likely some children would still go hungry and families would be deterred from seeking help by what he called the council's "hands off" approach.

He added: "The scheme is far too clever for itself. Using the money for a free meal voucher scheme that works well across the country and giving aid to the food banks would be far more effective."

However, Norfolk Community Foundation chief executive Claire Cullens said the council's funding would enable them to extend their affordable food hub programme.

She said: “We are delighted to continue our work with Norfolk County Council to support those communities who are struggling and face real economic challenges.

“This funding injection is enabling us to deliver a coordinated programme of help in partnership with our local and vital Norfolk charities.”



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