This COVID Local Support Grant was introduced to provide local authorities in England with funding to support vulnerable households with living costs during the pandemic, and in particular, throughout the winter period. As some restrictions are ongoing, I welcome the fact that the scheme has been extended until September 2021 and has received additional funding of £160 million. Since December 2020, the total value of support provided through COVID Local Support Grants stands at £429.1 million.
I was especially pleased that 80 per cent of this funding has been helping the hardest-hit families and individuals with food and utility bills. I believe that local authorities are best placed to respond to local need, which is why they distribute funding. Importantly, funding is not restricted to families with school-aged children but may also be extended to pre-school children. Schools will continue providing meals to disadvantaged children during term-time.
I know this has been a challenging time for many families and I hope that this package has built on the comprehensive package of support that has been provided via furlough, the self-employment income support scheme and the welfare system, during the pandemic. I will continue to follow this closely and engage with ministerial colleagues on these matters.
In terms of Local Welfare Assistance, it is important to note that Local Authorities in England have powers to run Local Welfare Assistance Schemes at their discretion, which may include emergency support. It is for Local Authorities to assess need in their area and to determine the design of any such scheme, including eligibility, access and nature of provision.