A NEW partnership between a charity and schools has been launched amid a rise in the number of families in need of support.

The Witham Hub says it has launched the Witham School Support Scheme after seeing a rise in demand, particularly during the pandemic.

An online self-referral system is now available to parents which will be sent directly to schools who will then refer families onto the relevant agency or support group.

In some cases, The Hub will be able to offer food parcels.

Chair of Trustees Tina Townsend said: "This has taken a lot of planning, but we are really pleased to be able bring everyone together to make this work.

"It will offer a more comprehensive approach to getting families the right support at the right time.

"When we first started providing support to families, we were generally approached once or twice a week.

"But now we are getting requests from almost 20 families every week.

"We've noticed a lot more people coming into the Hub recently needing help or using the community fridge.

"The new system will mean we will be taking a completely holistic approach to supporting those in need.

"We will be able to look at each individual family's needs and work out what is best for them."

Mrs Townsend says the referral system has a four-week turnaround and families being supported will be reviewed on a monthly basis to ensure they are engaging with the relevant groups and authorities.

The schools which are part of the scheme are New Rickstones and Maltings academies, Elm Hall Primary, Powers Hall Academy, Chipping Hill, Howbridge Junior and Infants.

Templars Academy has also signed up.

Spokesman Faye Welsher said: "Our families at Templars Academy have been incredibly grateful for the support provided from the hub we are delighted to have a very good relationship with the team.

"The effective two-way communication means that we fully support the needs of our parents and pupils and provide the short-term support required to allow them to become more self-sufficient. "Knowing that we can contact the hub for this level of support has been invaluable, especially through the Covid-19 crisis."

The Hub says more schools and nurseries in Witham are expected to join the scheme in the coming weeks.

Witham MP and Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "This is an excellent initiative, and it is an inspiring example of the community of Witham pulling together to support each other during these unprecedented and challenging times.

"My congratulations to the Witham Hub for making this happen.”