The Isle of Wight Council has confirmed that vulnerable children and those eligible for free school meals will not go hungry during the February half-term as funding has been provided for food vouchers for families.
Part of the council’s connect4communities programme, the school holiday food voucher scheme aims to help those facing hardship because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It has been funded from the £456,845 Covid Winter Grant Scheme allocation, awarded to the authority by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Councillor Paul Brading, Cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said the scheme supported an estimated 5,590 children on the Island:
He said: “No child will go hungry.
“In November, through our connect4communities programme, we made arrangements to ensure funding was distributed to schools for them to supply food vouchers to the families of eligible children for the two-week Christmas school holidays and February half-term.
“On behalf of council, can I reiterate out grateful thanks for the role that childminders, early years providers, schools and colleges have played in ensuring food vouchers reach eligible families – without their support to purchase and distribute the vouchers, we would not have managed this enormous task so successfully.”
Schools hold the budgets for the provision of free school meals during term time and have been making local arrangements to ensure those who are on benefits related free school meals entitlement and who are not in school are provided with a food parcel or vouchers while they are learning remotely.
Ahead of the February half-term holiday, the connect4communities programme has provided further funding to schools, colleges and early years providers to supply each eligible household a £15 voucher for each child. In line with the DWP’s funding criteria, food vouchers will be given to:
- all families whose children are eligible for benefits related free school meals;
- children being supported by a social worker;
- children receiving early help services from the council’s Family Support Service;
- two to four year olds accessing childcare and eligible for Early Years Pupil Premium;
- 16-18 year olds who were previously eligible for free school meals.
Further support was put in place for families over the winter season, with each school being provided with a Discretionary Grant Fund.
Schools have the flexibility to use this grant funding to help support families who may not be immediately eligible for other benefits but find themselves struggling financially; for example, where a parent has lost their job due to COVID-19.
The money can be used to help families with food and other essential items, such as energy cards/tokens to pay fuel bills. However, in accordance with the DWP Winter Grant Fund criteria, this discretionary allowance cannot be used by schools to supplement term time free school meals.
Additionally, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has also been awarded funding by the council to support families who are experiencing financial hardship and can provide information and advice on the wider range of available support. Call their adviceline on 0800 144 88 48 (open 9am until 5pm, Monday to Friday).
For more information on connect4communities, visit the official website.