St Helens families can claim free school meal vouchers over Christmas period
Families in St Helens who are eligible for free school meals will still be able to claim vouchers over the Christmas break, a senior councillor has confirmed.
In the run up to autumn, St Helens Borough Council announced it would provide vouchers to the value of £12 a week per child after Tory MPs shut down plans to extend free school meals.
This was after a campaign started by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford led to Labour forcing a Commons vote on whether to extend the offer.
On Monday, Labour’s Kate Groucutt, cabinet member for education, skills and business, confirmed that the scheme will continue over Christmas.
“We are going to be able to offer free school meal vouchers to our young people and children over Christmas, those that are eligible to them,” she told the council’s children and young people services scrutiny committee.
“As you know we had a last-minute thing at half term to get that support for families.
“We are going to be able to do that at Christmas and we’re just working out the detail and will have some more comms out on that this week.”
After Conservative MPs voted against extending England’s free school meal voucher scheme in October, businesses across St Helens stepped up to the plate to offer support to hard-up families over autumn half term.
An outpouring of public support across the country led to an embarrassing U-turn from Boris Johnson’s government, which subsequently led to the launch of a new £170 million Covid winter grant scheme.
Local authorities will run the scheme, which will cover to the end of March 2021 and include an extension of the holiday activities and food programme.
The government said the scheme will allow councils to directly help the hardest-hit families and individuals, as well as provide food for children who need it over the school holidays.
The Department for Work and Pensions said local authorities will receive the funding at the beginning of December.