Council distributes over £5m to vulnerable youngsters to help them through the pandemic

Wakefield Council has distributed more than £5m to support thousands of children and families in the district since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Working in partnership with the Wakefield Residents’ Recovery Board, funding has focused on providing food and other essential items during the school holidays alongside local welfare provision.

It has also allowed for the funding and delivery of other key projects including:

  • activity packs, online sessions, and community activities for children;
  • support for children and young people’s mental health;
  • resources and tools to prevent a fall back in educational attainment;
  • and food/welfare provision.

This has resulted in 18,000 eligible children’s families receiving £3.2m worth of supermarket vouchers, as well as fuel and other essential items.

Eligible families were identified through the Council Tax Support Scheme – which includes all children eligible for free school meals.

Children locally have also  benefitted from a £1.275m grant from the Department for Education’s Holiday Activity Fund.

Locally branded as WF Happy Healthy Holidays, the scheme allows the Council to offer free holiday club places to all those aged from five to 16 who are eligible for free school meals.

During the recent six-week summer holidays, a total of 32 providers were awarded funding and an estimated 17,750 places made available – with activities ranging from arts and crafts to climbing walls, archery, family picnic days and fire fighter courses.

A parent whose family benefitted said: “If it wasn’t for this summer camp, they would have been stuck in their bedrooms bored or on electrical items.

“I honestly cannot thank you enough. Every day has been different and never the same, which has kept everyone engaged.”

Margaret Isherwood smiling
Cllr Margaret Isherwood

Cllr Margaret Isherwood, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “Our goal remains to provide the best possible services for our children and young people.

“Since the start of the pandemic the Council has acted quickly to successfully meet the needs and unique challenges faced by our district’s families, and it’s pleasing to hear about so many positive outcomes.”

Separately, £200,000 was received through Public Health Covid Funding and was used to specifically help vulnerable children aged from zero to 5 years, and young carers, who have been adversely affected by pandemic lockdowns.

The outcome being 4,000 activity packs circulated, including 80 for young carers, plus safety and specialist equipment funded and outdoor equipment grants given to 12 community centres and nine Family Hubs across the district.

A further £300,000 from this fund was also utilised to buy 1,000 laptops for primary schools in conjunction with the Council’s WF Connect project.

This is a recycling scheme that encourages residents and businesses to donate their unused devices, all with the aim of supporting children who have no means of accessing online learning.

To date, 347 donations have been received, enabling the distribution of more than 200 refurbished laptops to those in need. 

Cllr Isherwood added: “As we progress in our improvement of children’s services, key to our vision as well as the coordination and distribution of all this amazing work has been successful partnership working.

“So I’d like to thank all our partners and grant providers for making this possible as the various projects have clearly made a big difference to our district’s children and families’ live.

“I’m confident that as we continue to progress, our partnership ethos will enable us to continually provide the best services possible.”