A further £10million of emergency funding is being rolled out to continue helping Kent’s most vulnerable households and businesses hardest hit by the pandemic, Kent County Council has announced.
The Helping Hands Scheme includes a raft of support – ranging from assisting just-managing families with heating bills and helping struggling firms stay afloat, to tackling digital poverty and match-funding crowdfunded community projects providing vital local assistance.
The scheme is the latest initiative to help people and businesses in Kent under pressure, because of Coronavirus restrictions, funded by the £95m Emergency COVID Grant – money awarded to KCC by government over recent months to help contain the outbreak.
Working with district and borough councils, and other key partners, KCC will distribute the latest tranche of grant to relevant services and organisations to award to those most impacted by the current national lockdown.
The Helping Hands Scheme includes a range of targeted help, including:
- £4m for low-income individuals and households and those in financial crisis – which will be made available via council services such as the Kent Support and Assistance Service, as well as district and borough councils, voluntary and community organisations, including Kent Community Foundation, and utility companies, such as South East Water.
- £3m for businesses and the self-employed – which will be allocated through council services, district and borough councils, voluntary and community organisations, and business networks, including the Chamber of Commerce.
- £2.5m to tackle digital poverty – working with schools and colleges, district and borough councils and voluntary and community organisations, and
- £500,000 to match-fund crowdfunded community projects – that support local communities respond and recover from COVID.
Kent County Council Leader Roger Gough said: “We understand the pressures that the latest national lockdown has put on our most vulnerable households and businesses, particularly those who were just about managing.
“Our hope is this latest package of funding will significantly address the hardship Kent’s most in need individuals, families and businesses are experiencing – simply because they are unable to work, or trade, due to Coronavirus restrictions.
“I am very pleased to be able to say that, throughout the pandemic, Kent County Council has continued to provide essential services. And, together with our key partners and a host of other organisations and charities, we have ensured that all those who require extra support have received it.
“We will continue to do all we can to assist those in need during these extremely challenging, unprecedented, times.”
As well as using money received from government since March 2020 to cope with Coronavirus to boost Adult Social Care and Children’s Services and extend Winter Grants, KCC has backed numerous projects. These include launching the Kent & Medway Business Fund and Business Recovery Helpline, expanding the Kent Toys scheme, and providing food packages for the clinically extremely vulnerable.
By allocating a further £10m the County Council will be able to provide even more essential support.
Josephine McCartney, Chief Executive of Kent Community Foundation, said: “We are delighted to be able to distribute this additional funding to organisations and families who are most in need across Kent.
“As the county continues to grapple with further restrictions it is more important than ever that additional support is made available. Personal debt is on the increase and we know that families are struggling to cope financially so any additional funding in this area is most welcome. We want to thank KCC for continuing to address this need.”
Work to raise awareness of the latest available funding to ensure those in most in need do not miss out is now underway.
If you are vulnerable and have an urgent need that cannot be met through existing support networks, you can contact the Kent Together helpline at www.kent.gov.uk/KentTogether or by calling on 03000 41 92 92. It is a 24-hour service.
Kent County Council also has a page on its website answering frequently-asked questions and the very latest Coronavirus information on its service updates page. Visit www.kent.gov.uk to find out more. #Kenttogether
Notes to editors:
Projects funded by KCC’s COVID emergency funding since March 2020 include:
- Funding a Business Recovery Helpline – run by Kent and Medway Growth Hub on behalf of KCC and local authorities, the helpline has received over 15,000 phone calls and advised nearly 4,000 people via its webchat option since it was set up last March. As well as guidance on Business Rate Relief Grants, businesses have also sought dedicated COVID mentoring to help navigate this challenging period.
- Expanding the Kent Toys scheme – to enable parents of all eligible disabled children and young people to apply for toys or equipment up to the value of £250 per child to support their complex needs while isolating. Previously the scheme only covered children prevented from receiving short breaks because of COVID restrictions. The project recognises that some children and young people suffer severe frustration and anxiety when their routines are disrupted and their disabilities make it hard to understand why things have changed.
- Supporting remote digital learning – by providing digital bundles, including e-books and courses, to those in need.
- Extending winter grants – for voluntary organisations.
- Providing food packages – for the clinically extremely vulnerable, and
- Supporting key service providers – by making continuity payments to early years’ providers, school and public transport providers to ensure they remain in business and ready to run once restrictions are eased.
Benefit entitlements and evidence of COVID impacts, will be used to ensure new funding reaches those it is intended to help. Organisations allocating grants will also complete Equality Impact Assessment screening.