Families and individuals struggling with finances or needing help because of COVID-19 this winter can now access support provided by Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council, district councils and voluntary and community organisations.

Oxfordshire councils have received £1.37 million from the government’s new COVID-19 Winter Grant Schemeto run local support schemes for those in greatest need.

They are working closely together to identify residents requiring urgent assistance within the rules of the scheme and the most effective ways of delivering support. This includes working with local Citizens Advice services to continue and expand support already put in place during the autumn.

Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “This Christmas will be different and difficult for every one of us, but I am determined that no resident will go without essentials. Families who are struggling because of the impact of COVID-19 will receive essential support to get them through the winter.

“Our schemes are aimed at supporting families with children, with most of the money to be spent on this group. Other households struggling directly or indirectly due to the impact of COVID-19 will also be assisted with the costs of food and other essential items.

“We know that ‘holiday hunger’ remains a serious concern for many families and we are determined to do everything we can to alleviate those worries.”

Support will also available through food banks and other community food services.

The first element of the scheme has been dispatched over the last week. More than £400,000 worth of support for food and other essential supplies was distributed to the families of children and young people entitled to free school meals, and younger children with qualifying eligibility in early years settings.

Schools, colleges and early years settings have worked closely with the councils to distribute this support in advance of the Christmas holidays.

For anyone needing support this winter, Good Food Oxford’s food map provides practical information to help find and access information about services such as foodbanks, community kitchens and food surplus cafes. It covers the whole of Oxfordshire.

This easy to use map helps users search for services that are closest to them. Support is available to anyone who needs it, offering anything from a cooked meal, to food parcels that can be taken away for another time.

Fiona Steel, from Good Food Oxford, said: “Food insecurity is a real challenge this winter. Ensuring that every child in need has additional support over the Christmas holidays will make things just that little bit easier at a time when things are tough for so many.”

The city and each of the district councils also have information on their websites about additional local support services: