Local councils and teachers’ unions have welcomed a government announcement that food vouchers made available to schools and families of children entitled to free school meals in England are being extended to cover the Easter holidays.
Ministers said last week that qualifying families could claim shopping vouchers of £15 a week per child in term time only. But over the weekend Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove that the vouchers would continue to be paid over the two-week Easter break, benefiting an estimated 1.3 million youngsters in England.
Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said:
“We are pleased that the Government has listened to our call to extend the food voucher scheme to cover the Easter holidays.
“No young person should have to go hungry and ensuring vulnerable pupils – including those on free school meals and with special educational needs and disabilities – are provided for is a top priority for councils and schools.
“There are over 1.3 million young people entitled to free school meals and the number of families in need is likely to be much greater as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has forced thousands of families into financial insecurity, meaning parents who did not previously qualify for free school meals may be eligible for them.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Many struggling families will be finding it even harder than normal to make ends meet in the current emergency and with children at home for a long period.
“The extension of the voucher scheme will make a real difference in helping to alleviate the risk of children going hungry.”