DfE confirms 'no plans' for free school meals over summer holidays
Tuesday, May 26, 2020
There are “no plans” to provide eligible children with free school meals over the summer holidays, the Department for Education has confirmed.
A DfE spokesperson told CYP Now that there were no arrangements in place for the emergency voucher scheme, introduced in March as a response to school closures due to Covid-19, to continue over the summer.
“We have other programmes to fill the gap over summer including school holiday activities and food programmes,” the spokesperson said.
The move comes despite free schools meals being offered to 1.3 million children over the two-week Easter break and week-long May half term.
The DfE originally said meals would not be provided over both holidays but appeared to row back on the decisions following pressure from local authorities and campaign groups.
The spokesperson added: “We can confirm that free school meal vouchers are being made available during May half term."
More than 100,000 people have signed a petition set up by a 16-year-old girl calling for the scheme to be extended over summer.
Christina Adane wrote on Change.org: “Like 1.3 million other children in the UK, I get free school meals. They are the difference between whether kids eat or not. Now those of us who desperately rely on them are being told they will be taken away during school holidays.
“With each week that passes [during lockdown] the struggle to just get by and eat properly gets harder. Holiday periods can be a cause of distress as parents will try to figure out how to provide for their kids 24/7. Too many families are reaching breaking point right now.”
Meanwhile, more than 1,600 local councillors have written to Gavin Williamson calling for free school meals to be provided over the summer break.
The letter states: "Holiday hunger is an issue for many families and we would like your assurances that families eligible for free school meals will be given food vouchers to sustain them during the summer holidays.
“We believe that this should become a permanent fixture within our school system, so no child need go hungry during the school holidays again.”
The campaign comes as primary schools and early years settings prepare to reopen to some pupils on 1 June and secondary schools prepare to reopen to pupils in years 10 and 13 on 15 June.