Disadvantaged families in West Northamptonshire have received a share of a £850,000 fund to ensure vulnerable children are fed over the school summer holidays.
Just under 9,500 families whose children are eligible for free school meals during term time have now also received vouchers of £90, which can be spent at many of the major supermarkets over the six-week summer holiday. This equates to £15 per child each week.
Cabinet member for Children and Education at West Northamptonshire Council (WNC), Councillor Fiona Baker, said: "We saw early on in the lock down how many low-income families weren’t being furloughed and just lost their jobs and any form of independent income. It is up to us to ensure their children are protected from those circumstances as much as possible.
“But we have to be clear that this has been a one-off payment from Government and this kind of support to mitigate the impact of Covid and the lockdown cannot continue indefinitely.
“We will be monitoring our progress closely and will lobby Government if the evidence shows further support is needed."
WNC has been working with schools to gather lists of eligible pupils after the Government announced the Household Support Grant Scheme to pay for free school meals or fuel costs in June.
After schools provided lists of eligible pupils, WNC generated individual pupil vouchers and returned them to schools so they could distribute them to the families who need them.
Schools with the largest number of eligible pupils received the vouchers first and the rest in descending order in time for the start of the school holidays last week.
This follows after a Northamptonshire charity confirmed that it is set to open a food bank for the eighth consecutive year at Rectory Farm Centre to meet 'big demand' in the NN3 area.
Department for Education figures show 17,901 children in Northamptonshire were eligible for free school meals in January – 15% of all state school pupils in the area. This was up from 12% the year before, and at the highest level since comparable figures began in 2015-16.
A council spokesperson confirmed that this free meals scheme will also be in place for eligible families in North Northamptonshire
The scheme remains in place this year despite Northamptonshire’s seven MPs voting down a national motion to continue the free school meal scheme across the UK during school holidays in October 2020.
After it was decided that the free school meal scheme would not be extended by central Government, England and Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford led a huge campaign to provide 1.4 million children across the country with food vouchers during the holidays.
To find out more about the free school meals scheme in West Northamptonshire, visit: https://www.westnorthants.gov.uk/schools-and-education/free-school-meals.