Families suffering financial hardship in North Devon are being reminded of support available from North Devon Council.

The council’s Local Hardship Fund was set up in direct response to the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to financial support from Devon County Council.

The fund can provide support to families who are suffering immediate financial hardship as a result of Covid-19, and can be used to provide support with basic essential needs such as food, personal or household items, travel for essential hospital and doctor appointments, repairs and even gas and electricity costs.

In a week where local businesses have stepped up to offer free meals for children who need them over the half term, the council is urging families who may need support to come forward for assistance.

North Devon Council’s lead member for housing, Councillor Nicola Topham said: “North Devon Council has been helping the most in need in our community throughout the pandemic and we want to do as much as we can to continue supporting them, particularly if they need help with feeding children during the school holidays.

“If any families are having difficulties, this fund is available to assist.

“Also if any local businesses who have stepped up and offered support need help in providing that support, the fund could be available to assist with their efforts as well.”

During the summer, this fund was used to provide financial assistance to schools in the area who then identified and provided direct help to families and pupils most at need.

The council is hoping to set up a similar arrangement for the Christmas school holidays.

The fund has also been used to provide direct support to North Devon Food Bank and to fund other groups working with and supporting local communities.

North Devon Council leader, Councillor David Worden, said: “Over the past week, the response from all sectors of the North Devon community to the free school meals issue has been fantastic and shows what North Devon does best; supporting its community.

“The Local Hardship Fund is an emergency fund set up to help people who have been directly financially affected by Covid to help them with their basic needs.

“There is nothing more basic than the need for food, so if people are not able to access any of the generous assistance offered by local businesses, or if those businesses themselves are struggling to support their offer, the fund may be able to help.”

To make an application, contact North Devon Council on 01271 388280 or email customerservices@northdevon.gov.uk.

Those making contact are asked to be patient in attempting to get through, as the council’s customer services team is operating with reduced staffing due to Covid-19.