People who are struggling to meet the cost of basic essentials as a result of Covid-19 can get emergency food or help paying their utility bills following the release of funds by North Yorkshire County Council.
The authority has money available through its North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund to provide targeted support to anyone in need.
Neil Irving, assistant director, policy, partnerships and communities, said: “We have targeted funds that are available not just to children entitled to free school meals, but to anybody who is suffering financial hardship as a result of the pandemic or anything else.
“This support is provided through our local assistance fund.
“We have extended the fund during the pandemic to enable people to apply for up to three awards of emergency food and/or utility vouchers, and we may review that in future.”
At the start of the pandemic, the county council said it recognised the pressures it would create for people, so allocated an extra £1m to the local assistance fund.
This has been supplemented by £150,000 from the Government.
In addition, during the pandemic the county council has given more than £200,000 to a variety of food supply charities, including food banks and hot meal delivery services.
This money has come from Government funding and individual county councillors’ locality budgets.
A grant of £80,000 has been awarded to the network of Citizens’ Advice Bureaux in North Yorkshire to create additional capacity for them to offer advice and support to people who may need help managing their finances or accessing benefits.
During the pandemic, the county council is also working with 23 local community support organisations (CSOs) based around the county, providing a total of £930,000 to help them to advise on local support for people who are self-isolating and arrange for volunteers to help those that need it to access food and essential items.
The CSOs have recently been re-contracted to continue this service until March next year.
County Council leader Cllr Carl Les said: “This local assistance fund makes use of county council resources and we also welcome Government money sent to us since the pandemic began.
“We have used the funds to support food banks, our local community support organisations and the Citizens Advice network across the county as these are where residents go for advice and help.
“We will keep our interventions under constant review so that they are targeted to those that need them.”
People can find details of the Local Assistance Fund, including how to make an application, at www.northyorks.gov.uk/nylaf
Alternatively, to find details of food supply charities near them, people can call the county council’s customer service centre, which currently opens seven days a week from 8am to 5.30pm, on 01609 780780.