Free school meal vouchers to be provided by Nottinghamshire County Council over Easter holidays – Reuters

Free school meal vouchers will be provided at Easter
By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Journalist

Nottinghamshire County Council has confirmed it will provide free school meal vouchers to eligible families during the two-week Easter holiday next month.

The announcement comes after some councilors feared the scheme could run during school holidays, fearing the council was prioritizing gaming events offering free food to families.

Information on how to access the vouchers will be provided on the council’s website in the coming hours and days, with a senior adviser confirming that schools have also been made aware of the voucher scheme.

Thousands of children are eligible for vouchers across Nottinghamshire, with figures released in October last year confirming that 23,649 were eligible for free school meals in April 2021.

An update in the council chamber at a meeting on Thursday March 31 confirmed that figure had risen to around 25,000.

And speaking at the full council meeting, Councilor Michael Payne (Lab), who represents Arnold North, called on the Tory-led authority to outline the supports it is offering struggling families at Easter .

He said, “Does the [council] please provide an update to the chamber and all elected members on the disposition of the Notts holiday fund and activity program for the Easter 2022 school holidays?

“I know this will be a concern for everyone across the chamber.”

In response, Cllr Tracey Taylor (Con), Chair of the Children and Young People’s Committee, said: ‘Notts County Council will, once again, provide free school meal vouchers to thousands of children in Nottinghamshire During the Easter holidays.

“The scheme will again use money from the Government’s Household Support Fund following the Chancellor’s announcement in the Spring Budget that it was doubling the HSF investment to £1billion.

“This is excellent news for the 25,000 eligible young people from across the department, who will receive 125,000 meal vouchers.

“This confirms our continued commitment to helping low-income households as we continue to recover from the effects of the Covid pandemic.”

She added that county parents can find out if their child is eligible for free school lunch vouchers by visiting the authority’s website, but a link will also be provided on the Holiday and Activity Fund page.

Cllr Payne welcomed the response but asked that the voucher information be passed on to schools and parents “in a timely manner”.

He said a school in his division issued a notice to parents this week suggesting vouchers would not be available over the holidays and asked to make sure schools are now aware of the return of the voucher system.

He also asked if Cllr Taylor supported reforms proposed by the Local Government Association that could automatically enroll families in the free school meals scheme.

This, he said, would remove the “individual parent obligation” and bring 215,000 children nationwide into the system without changing any eligibility criteria.

Responding, Cllr Taylor said: ‘I can reassure you that the information was released directly to all schools on Tuesday this week, it’s already out.

“The announcement was made last Wednesday and we had to go through internal processes.

“Now that we’ve spoken in the chamber today, mainstream communications will come out today to reinforce that message.”

She added: “I don’t see why, in any process for any establishment, one wouldn’t seek to do some form of cascading or self-connection, to really make life easier for children and families by accessing benefits and additional support. they need.”

The value of the vouchers doubled during the February holidays, from £15 to £30 per week.

The authority said this includes £15 to help feed the child and an additional £15 to help families cope with increases in the cost of living.

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