This Government spends over £550 million a year, through the National Funding Formula, providing free school meals for disadvantaged children and young people across England. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, schools have continued to receive this funding and the Government has provided additional funding for the national voucher scheme to support children at home. As of 15 June, vouchers worth over £154 million have been redeemed by schools and families.
As schools open more widely, and their kitchens reopen, we expect schools to make food parcels available for collection or delivery for any children that are eligible for free school meals who are not yet able to return to school. Where this is not possible, schools can continue to offer vouchers to eligible pupils. Provision for free school meals is ordinarily term time only.
Rebecca Harris has commented: "Some families are facing severe hardship because of the Coronavirus and I was glad to see the Government’s unprecedented announcement that we will be providing a £120m Covid summer food fund during the six week school holiday. This is in addition to the extra £63m for local authorities announced last week, to provide families & individuals with extra support in these tough times.”
The Government has made significant wider support available for children and families at this time. The Government has introduced an uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by around £1,000 a year for the next 12 months as part of an injection of over £6.5 billion by Government into the welfare system.
Further support has been pledged by various departments across government with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announcing the provision of £16 million for food support through charities, including FareShare and WRAP. DEFRA have also issued 2 million food packages to those who are shielding.
The Department for Education’s Holiday Activities and Food programme ensures that thousands of disadvantaged children have access to enriching activities and nutritious healthy meals over the summer. This summer, the Department will again run the programme at a cost of £9 million.
More widely, the Government has supported families to cope with the impact of coronavirus by introducing a range of support measures, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. Over 11.5 million people have been supported by these schemes, meaning that millions of families have continued to receive a pay cheque every month. Support has also been provided to help families pay their rent or mortgage, access sick pay, and delay tax payments.