More than £17m has been given out in grants to support the vulnerable across Greater Manchester during the pandemic, but the city-region’s leaders say it ‘falls massively short’.
The area’s ten boroughs have received millions between them since December that they had to use specifically to help struggling families manage the impact of coronavirus.
Central government ring-fenced the funding to support people paying bills, covering food costs and buying essentials and entrusted local councils to dish out the cash.
Councils across the country and city-region developed their own individual schemes to distribute the funding – some made direct payments to vulnerable families, others gave the money to charities providing services to those struggling.
To date, here’s a full break-down of the funding each council in Greater Manchester has received so far:
- Bolton: £1,758,461.03
- Bury: £980,503.18
- Manchester: £4,086,231.82
- Oldham: £1,542,875.32
- Rochdale: £1,483,082.99
- Salford: £1,724,382.92
- Stockport: £1,373,610.01
- Tameside: £1,416,122.29
- Trafford: £931,156.63
- Wigan: £1,780,077.06
In total, the city-region’s councils have collectively received just under £17.1m through the covid grant scheme since it began in December 2020.
Across the North West, councils received over £42m between them.
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But Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said the funding doesn’t go anywhere near far enough.
He said: “Although this money helped to plug a specific gap during the Christmas holidays and ensure some of Manchester’s poorest families had enough to eat, this funding goes nowhere near to meeting the full costs of covid to the council and to the city – and falls massively short of what we would expect from government during this crisis.
“Couple this with a budget that has imposed inflation busting council tax increases on residents and we are seeing a cumulative negative impact that can only hit the city’s most vulnerable people harder in the coming months.”
A spokesperson for Manchester council explained the funding it received from government was used to support vulnerable households over the Christmas period and around £200,000 was handed out in direct welfare payments to meet emergency costs and bills.
The funding was distributed to children and their families who are usually eligible for free school meals (£15 per child per holiday week).
Coun Arooj Shah, Oldham council’s leader, agreed with Sir Richard Leese and said: “We put the funding to much-needed use – supporting children and young people with food in the school holiday periods and also providing grants to people struggling with fuel poverty.
“While the money has helped to support some of the most vulnerable in our borough, it is nowhere near enough to meet the needs of residents who live with these worries day in, day out.
“Together, we will continue to put pressure on central government for fair, sustainable funding – rather than ad hoc extensions to this scheme – so that no child goes hungry and no one cannot afford to heat their home.”
Coun Tom McGee, deputy leader of the Stockport council, explained his local authority made over 23,000 payments to families in receipt of free school meals.
Payments were made to support purchases of large household goods (like fridges and washing machines), emergency fuel vouchers to help cover utility bill costs and other support for those not eligible for free school meals.
Coun McGee added: “We would welcome a discussion with government to secure a sustainable funding stream for provision of support to families during school holidays.
“The pandemic has exploited and deepened existing inequalities and as a country we must be able to find the resources to provide our children with the necessary support during school holidays.
“From the outset our aim has been to support as many individuals and families as possible that needed help in these unprecedented times.”
In Rochdale, the council distributed Aldi vouchers to more than 12,400 families and supported over 3,000 people with household costs. It has also spent £80,000 on setting up a central food distribution warehouse to support community groups and food banks in the area.
The authority said it will continue to provide support for struggling families throughout 2021 through superstore vouchers and food bank support.
Coun Carol Wardle, cabinet member for finance at Rochdale council, said: “Whilst the funding has been very welcome, we have been faced with huge increases in demand during the pandemic with so many families struggling to manage.
“This demand is still very much there so we now are awaiting a commitment for further government funding so this essential support can continue to be provided.”
In Wigan, a council spokesperson explained they’ve supported vulnerable families through direct payments too – to help towards bills, costs and purchases of things like fridges and washing machines.
The payments were distributed similarly to in Manchester, to families with children eligible for free school meals.
A similar scheme is understood to have been setup by Trafford council.
The government’s Minister for Welfare Delivery, Will Quince, said: “Our Covid grants are ensuring thousands of children are clothed, fed and warm – vital support for families during the pandemic.
“By working with councils across the North West we have been able to reach those most in need in the communities here, and as we progress along the road to recovery we will continue to support families in the best way possible.”
Across the country, more than £269m of covid grants have been given to local councils.