The Isle of Wight Council is explaining more about changes to the way the Island's most vulnerable residents will be supported with the cost of food and rising living expenses.

Free meal vouchers have stopped - just days before most children start the May half term.

The vouchers were helping offset the extra cost of food, caused when children who are eligible for free school meals are not in class.

One Isle of Wight school has already pointed worried families to the new community pantry scheme, which has opened a branch in East Cowes, run by Community Spirited.

There are plans for two more pantries - in Ventnor and Ryde - but they will not be open in time for the start of the half term break.

East Cowes's Community Pantry.

What is a community pantry?

At community pantries, members pay £5 to get at least £15 in food and they can visit once a week.

Today (Wednesday), an Isle of Wight Council spokesperson told the County Press the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Covid Winter Grant, launched in December 2020 to fund school holiday food vouchers, was only ever intended to be short-term. 

Changes in guidance from DWP now means the Isle of Wight Council is among local authorities unable to fund the vouchers.

Instead, some one-off payments will be made.

Who will be eligible for extra support on the Isle of Wight now free meal vouchers have been stopped?

  • A one-off £125 food voucher to residents eligible for Local Council Tax Support and Pension Credit Guaranteed Credit.
  • A one-off £50 food voucher per household eligible for Local Council Tax Support and benefits-related Free School Meals.
  • And/or a one-off £25 food voucher for residents eligible for Local Council Tax Support, where there are no children or pensioners living at the property.

County Hall says details of how to obtain the vouchers will be published, but it did not say when.

The authority said: "Vouchers do not provide a sustainable longer-term solution to poverty. 

"Other initiatives include support with the costs of utility bills through Citizens Advice, help with exceptional housing costs through the council and a broad range of community projects across the county."  

Advice is also available via the connect4communities scheme, said the Isle of Wight Council - the organisation also behind the new food pantries.