Knowsley Council is welcoming news that the Government has now agreed to fund the cost of free school meals during the forthcoming school summer holidays.
As announced yesterday (Tuesday, 16 June), the Government has agreed a £120 million “Covid Summer Food Fund”. The Fund will cover the cost of vouchers to be issued at the end of the school term to children who are eligible for the Pupil Premium and whose families are struggling financially during the Coronavirus pandemic. The value of the voucher will equate to £15 per week per eligible child.
Cllr Margaret Harvey, Knowsley Council’s Children’s Services Cabinet Member, said: “We welcome the Government’s belated decision as we know that COVID-19 has had a huge economic impact on Knowsley families.
“The safety net which free school meals can provide will hopefully take some of the pressure off these families and help to ensure that no child will go hungry this summer.”
Knowsley Council, along with other local authorities, parents, schools, academy trusts and even celebrities have consistently called in recent weeks for such Government support. In Knowsley, the council and voluntary sector agencies are already drawing up plans for a range of summer holiday activities which will include nutritious lunches for those who participate. But the Government’s support will now mean that there will be support for all eligible children – even those who may not attend a holiday club during the summer months.
All six of the Liverpool City Region’s local authorities have come together to challenge the Government to stay true to its promise to do “whatever it takes” to support councils and communities through the COVID-19 crisis. Whilst councils in the City Region are still facing a combined budget shortfall of approximately £240 million, this latest announcement at least provides some confidence that the Government will take into consideration some of the key issues facing many in communities in Knowsley and across the UK.
Councillor Harvey added: “I very much hope that this decision indicates that the Government is starting to listen. Free schools meals are just a small element of a more complex situation which local families and individuals are facing at this time. We can’t fool ourselves – poverty isn’t going to be solved with £15 a week, but it is an important step in the right direction.
“Local authorities like ours are working daily with families who tell us they have no idea where the next meal is coming from. It’s sad but true that in 2020 we still hear these stories and politicians of all colours have a duty to put this right. Nobody should be living in poverty – and no child should be going hungry, especially due to the impact of a global pandemic over which they have no control.
“Local councils in the Liverpool City Region have been spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to make sure that families have been fed in the last few months. That is the right thing to do. The Government seem to have listened to the voice of the people on the issue of free school meals, so now let’s hope that they do the same when it comes to supporting whole communities with the wider impacts of this pandemic.”