Council extends winter hardship payments to early years

In a move to ensure that no child goes hungry this Christmas, East Ayrshire Council has just announced generous plans to extend the Scottish Government’s £100 hardship payments for children and young people in receipt of free school meals - to include younger siblings  attending early learning and childcare.

The initial offer from the Scottish Government aims to give every child and young person between P4 and S6 who is entitled to free school meals a £100 payment in time for Christmas. This money will be paid by BACS directly to parents.

The initiative also includes families on low incomes with children in P1-P3, who are all currently receiving free schools meals and East Ayrshire Council will enhance the initiative further by extending these payments to low income families of all 2, 3 and 4 year olds year olds who have a funded early learning and childcare place and whose families meet the eligibility criteria.

Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council welcomed this move. He said:   “This has been a tough year for everyone, but we are acutely aware that some families have suffered considerable hardship as a consequence of COVID-19, through no fault of their own. Over 5000 residents, young and old, were shielding during lockdown, many people are now having to self-isolate as the testing regime is taking effect in a bid to stop the spread of the virus, and others have suffered redundancies and employment problems at this time.

“We want to do all we possibly can to support those families most in need, particularly at this time of year. By extending these payments to almost 400 additional younger children and siblings, from the Council’s own resources, we are ensuring that no young person is excluded from the prospect of a having a better Christmas.”

In addition to the £100 payments, the Council will be distributing over 4000 Christmas food boxes to families who require additional support over the Festive Season. The child-friendly food box contains healthy produce from local suppliers, with contents that children can easily use to prepare their own snacks. The boxes will also include a £20 East Ayrshire gift card, which can be redeemed at a number of local retailers across East Ayrshire.

Councillor Reid added: “The Christmas food boxes are a continuation of the food support we have been providing throughout the pandemic and an extension of our holiday hunger initiatives that we’ve previously arranged during the school holidays.

“We’re immensely grateful to the 40 volunteers who have come forward to help us deliver 4000 food parcels next week, in perfect time for Christmas. Our caring and kind communities have once again rallied round to help out each other, in the true spirit of the Festive Season.”

Payments will be paid directly to parents of P1-S6 pupils during the course of this week. Parents of early years children can expect to receive their payments in early January. Christmas food boxes will be delivered to all families between 21 and 22 December.