EASTBOURNE and Willingdon MP Caroline Ansell today thanked ministers for their intensive work to tackle child poverty concerns after the government unveiled a £400 million package of measures to help support low income families and children this winter.

Councils will now have £170 million of mostly ring fenced cash to help support families with food and bills until March through the Covid Winter Grant Scheme.

The holiday food and activities programme will be expanded to cover Easter, summer and Christmas in 2021 in what is a £210 million investment.

Healthy Start payments, designed to help pregnant mothers and low incomes families with young children buy fresh fruit and vegetables, is set to rise from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from next April. Another £16 million will go to help food banks.

Caroline voted for a Labour motion last month to extend free school meal vouchers out of term time until Easter 2021 and has called for extra support during the pandemic for struggling families but also long-term measures to change life chances.

“This announcement is really excellent news and so very welcome now as we move into lockdown and ever closer to the Christmas holidays. It will provide immediate relief and carry us through 2021,” Caroline said.

“It is a comprehensive investment in our lowest income and vulnerable families at a difficult time that will help around 1.7 million children across the country and, of course, children and young people in Eastbourne and Willingdon.

“With a massive uplift in investment and wide expansion of the holiday food and activities programme, these interventions go beyond what was called for last month. I couldn’t be more pleased at this response. 

“However, it is absolutely vital we address, not only child poverty during the pandemic and its aftermath, but also education outcomes for children on low incomes over the medium to long-term. 

“We pledged to do this in our Conservative manifesto and today’s announcement reflects that. The holiday food and activities programme addresses hunger and health and provides enriching learning experiences.  We can all agree that the best way out of disadvantage is through education.

“In joining earlier calls for support, I clearly see how important government policy and funding is for low income families but the outpouring of support from the whole community that we have just witnessed, must not be underestimated or now sidelined. 

“There are many in Eastbourne who stepped up to be part of supporting our young ones and their families and I hope we will all come together, community, charities and politicians to be part of a long term and lasting transformation in life chances. 

“Poverty is a complex issue and if we want to make sure no one is left behind, we must all be involved.”