A number of constituents have contacted me regarding free school meals over the summer holiday. I understand that children and parents in Broxtowe and across the country face an unprecedented situation this summer. I am grateful to Marcus Rashford for highlighting the difficulties which many families face.
The Government spends over £550 million a year, through the National Funding Formula, providing free school meals for disadvantaged children and young people across England.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, schools have continued to receive this funding and the Government has provided additional funding for the national voucher scheme to support children at home. As of 15 June, vouchers worth over £154 million have been redeemed by schools and families.
As schools open more widely, and their kitchens reopen, the Government expects schools to make food parcels available for collection or delivery for any children that are eligible for free school meals who are not yet able to return to school. Where this is not possible, schools can continue to offer vouchers to eligible pupils.
To reflect the extraordinary circumstances that many families will face this summer the Government will be providing a COVID Summer Food Fund. This will provide food vouchers for the six-week summer holiday period. Full details will be released shortly.
The Government has provided significant support to children and families during this time. Including £16 million from DEFRA for food support to charities including FareShare and WRAP. DEFRA has also issued 2 million food packages for people that are shielding.
The Department for Education’s Holiday Activities and Food programme ensures that thousands of disadvantaged children have access to enriching activities and nutritious healthy meals over the summer. This summer, the Department will again run the programme at a cost of £9 million.
More widely, the Government has supported families to cope with the impact of coronavirus by introducing a range of support measures, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. Over 11.5 million people have been supported by these schemes, meaning that millions of families have continued to receive a paycheque every month. Support has also been provided to help families pay their rent or mortgage, access sick pay, and delay tax payments.
I appreciate this is a difficult time for many families across Broxtowe. If you are facing any difficulties, please do not hesitate to get in touch. My team and I will do our best to help in any way we can.