Shropshire Council to fund provision of free school meals during May half-term holiday
Thousands of children in the Shropshire Council area are to receive free school meals during the May 2021 half-term holiday.
The council has already supported the cost of providing food over the recent Christmas and February half-term holidays, and will do so over the forthcoming Easter holiday. This provision has been part-funded through the Government’s COVID-19 Winter Grant Scheme,
But Shropshire Council has now agreed to extend this support to cover the May half-term holiday as well, with the costs fully covered by the council.
As with the other holiday periods, funds will be transferred to schools and early years settings to secure vouchers and/or food parcels for eligible families.
Ed Potter, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for children’s services, said:
“We recognise the pressures families in Shropshire are under, and are committed to support them. The provision of free school meals has been an important consideration throughout the pandemic.
“With some 5,500 children qualifying for benefits-related free school meals, we recognised early on the need to support our most vulnerable children outside of term time, in particular those known to children’s social care.
“Government funding enabled us to support eligible children and families up to and including the Easter holiday, but we have now agreed to go one step further and to fully fund the provision of free of schools during the May half-term holiday too.
“This is clearly the right and proper thing to do and I’m sure it will be welcomed by thousands of families across the county.”
Support for individual pupils is £3 per day, Monday through to Friday (ie £15 per week), for the holiday periods listed above. This is in line with the value of the vouchers via the Government’s national voucher scheme.
(1) Free school meals during the pandemic – a brief history
A national supermarket voucher scheme operated by a company called Edenred was launched around the Easter 2020, before being stood down at the end of the August, ahead of schools fully reopening in September 2020.
Over the two-week Easter 2020 period the families of up to 80 children in the Shropshire Council area were supported through the delivery of food parcels. The council stepped in to assist these families once again during the Autumn half-term holiday.
The provision of vouchers over the six-week summer holiday period 2020 was addressed through an extension of the term-time arrangements for the national scheme, with this particular initiative being called the COVID-19 Summer Food Fund.
Shropshire Council made an early determination that it would support the provision of benefits-related FSMs to all entitled pupils for the Christmas 2020 holiday period, using Government funding under the COVID-19 Winter Grant Scheme, and to extend this support to cover the February half-term and Easter holiday periods as well.
The Edenred national voucher scheme was relaunched on 18 January 2021 against the backdrop of the latest national lockdown.
The national voucher scheme has proved, in most instances, to be the most efficient and effective way of supporting benefits-related FSM families whose children who remained at home.
Throughout the lockdown periods, Shropshire Council has given extra support to community provision through Shropshire’s local foodbanks so that they are better able to meet greater demand on their direct communities. This has been in the form of both cash grants and the collection of surplus food provided by DEFRA, which the council has then stored free of charge and distributed to foodbanks as needed.
(2) The pupils eligible for support through this scheme include:
- all benefits-related free school meals children registered with schools in the immediate period prior to the holidays;
- children in pre-school provision – school and private settings – in receipt of 2FU or Early Years Pupil Premium funding, and;
- vulnerable children identified by education professionals in schools and the council, who don’t currently meet the criteria above but would benefit from support towards the cost of food during the holiday periods outlined above.