HUNDREDS of Barnsley families fighting poverty and the costly impact of the Covid pandemic will be eligible for continued support in order to pay their bills until the end of summer.
The boost - worth £890,000 to the borough’s worst-off residents - has been secured through the government’s Covid support scheme which has been extended to September.
Since its inception in December last year, help has come via food vouchers and help with heating costs over the winter months, with the latest financial injection bringing the total amount offered to almost £2.4m.
Welfare minister Will Quince said: “With a new round of funding, councils will be able to continue this support and adapt their offer to suit the needs of families.
“Those who are in need of support should contact the council to find out how they can access it and what support will be available over the coming months.”
Rising fears over the town’s poverty have been expressed by its MPs, with one in three children now being classed as living in poverty.
The number of children has risen from 12,325 in 2014/15 to 15,352, in 2019/20, despite latest statistics relating to pre-pandemic rates and not since Covid-19 struck last March.
The research carried out at Loughborough University takes into account housing costs and household incomes, estimating numbers of children living in homes which have below 60 per cent median incomes.
Barnsley is 32nd out of 382 local authority areas when the percentage rise is taken into account, but the borough’s figures closely follow a rise across Yorkshire and the Humber, where average rates have increased from 28 per cent to 33 per cent.
Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock said: “Over this last year we have all seen the headlines around holiday hunger and the fact that too many children are going hungry in the school holidays as families struggle throughout this pandemic after a decade of government cuts.
“In Barnsley East, 25 per cent of zero to 15-year-olds live in poverty. This is a shocking statistic - a quarter of children in our local area are growing up in poverty.
“Barnsley has suffered some of the worst cuts in the country, having its budget cut by over 33 per cent since 2010.
“It is clear that we need a long-term solution as without urgent and direct action this problem is only going to get worse.”
Sir Steve Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council, admitted the pandemic has been tough for all concerned.
He added: “We’ve used this grant scheme to support households and families who have been particularly affected by the pandemic.
“We especially wanted to make sure that children were kept fed and supported during the period of the grant allocation.
“Funding has allowed us to help families and individuals with food, energy and water costs, as well as household essentials such as clothing, personal products and domestic appliances.
“The funding issued includes £486,990 worth of school meal vouchers, supporting 10,822 local children, and the provision of a winter fuel grant payment of £140 each, supporting 4,585 households across the borough, as well as providing support to local foodbanks.
“The pandemic has hit families in our borough hard and caused a lot of financial hardship in the past months.”