‘Cliff edge’ fears for low-income families in Kent after Covid

KCC County Hall

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

Concerns have been raised over a potential “cliff edge” fallout for Kent’s poorest families from the pandemic.

Kent County Council’s (KCC) Tory administration has expressed fears over the ending of government emergency grants that have been provided to local authorities across England during the coronavirus crisis.

Around £388 million of extra cash was given to KCC to spend on critical public services, including more than £11 million of benefits-related free school meals for children during the summer and winter holidays.

However, County Hall’s scrutiny committee warned of a financial “cliff-edge” when support offered to families ends as councillors reviewed the situation in a debate at County Hall, Maidstone.

KCC’s leader Cllr Roger Gough (Con) told the panel on Wednesday (Nov 24): “There is an element of this that I fear will be a cliff edge.

“For example, the free school meals initiative continues for as long as [we] have the funding for it and no obvious way to replace that like for like.”

This comes amid the new Covid variant from South Africa, which has prompted calls for a travel ban from European Union nations.

Last month, KCC announced it will fund one £15 food voucher per eligible child or young person, which can be used in supermarkets and local shops.

This forms part of its allocation from the government’s household support fund, which was launched in September to help local authorities support some of their most vulnerable households during the winter.

In Kent, the number of claimants for Universal Credit have doubled during the Covid crisis, with more than 132,000 households relying on the extra support.

Government packages, including the furlough scheme and the £20 uplift for Universal Credit, came to an end over the last two months.

Maidstone county councillor Gary Cooke (Con) said: “I am concerned that with the extra financial support, which is incredibly important, that we do not face a cliff edge, where suddenly it is withdrawn and all the money has gone.

“We will be living with the consequences of the pandemic for many years to come.”

Residents eligible for benefits-related Free School Meals can apply for them via https://www.kent.gov.uk/education-and-children/schools/free-school-meals


  1. this article speaks as if people are in an equal situation across Kent. This is not true. Thanet has much more need for financial support. Families are just so anxious at the moment. They worry about nearly everything. As a Community Interest Company with 2000 registered members we can provide healthier food at affordable prices which helps families but we have to be realistic about what we can achieve. We cannot replace state provision or statutory services. If local government runs out of money because central government turns off the tap then we have to ask two questions 1)why are we paying our taxes? 2) Can we organise things differently and better?

  2. This bodes even more ill for the prospects of a Margate Town Council I fear – whereas I had thought the average household could expect to be £500 to £1,000 worse off a year but a very recent report estimates up to £2,000. Margate of course contains two of the most deprived wards in the country. Hopefully thought is being given to a more productive use of council offices so as to support a Fundraising Executive for a Thanet-wide benefit and supplement the under-resourced Regen Team …. And if it weren’t for all that impending litigation we could have employed a whole platoon of street sweepers – as it is central businesses will have to agitate for a better return on their £10 million plus rates.

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