Devon families with children who receive free school meals are being given a £45 supermarket voucher to help buy food over the Christmas holidays. Devon County Council (DCC) says the lump sum also covers February half-term next year.
Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com
The council has confirmed there has been a significant rise in the number of children from low-income families in receipt of free school meals a year with numbers now almost reaching 20,000 across Devon. Before the end of the current school term, each eligible child will automatically be sent a £45 supermarket voucher to replace the meals they would have had at school during the day.
It’s the equivalent of £15 per child per week of the two school holidays during the two-week Christmas break and the half-term in February. DCC says it is being distributed in one lump sum now to allow families some flexibility on how they spend the vouchers and try to help with the additional pressure the festive period puts on household budgets.
Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for communities said: “With the cost of living crisis starting to bite, more families in Devon are eligible for free school meals for their children than ever before, with numbers continuing to soar to the highest levels on record. Around a further 1,000 children have become eligible for free school meals over the last year, rising to a total of approximately 19,500 pupils.
“It’s been a tough few years for some people, particularly financially with incomes changing suddenly as businesses struggle to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Food and energy prices have risen dramatically in the last few months and household budgets are stretched.
“Many people are finding it especially difficult now as we move into colder winter months, and the financial challenges faced by some families can be intensified during the school holiday because of increased costs such as food and reduced incomes due to childcare. We are concerned that some are being forced to make some very difficult decisions to put food on the table or heat their home.
“Thankfully the government’s decision to continue its household support fund, for now, means we’ve been able to buy nearly £900,000 worth of supermarket vouchers to support these families during the Christmas and February half-term holidays so their children don’t go hungry. We are continuing to work with our local government, voluntary and community sector partners to support people in Devon experiencing hardship and make sure we identify those who are struggling so we can make sure they get the help they need.”
For more details about the vouchers please visit firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0345 155 1019.