Another u-turn as government funding free school meals

The government has announced that children and families will get extra support this winter, with councils given new funding to ensure vulnerable households do not go hungry or without essential items.

After weeks of refusing to cede to calls, led by footballer Marcus Rashford, to extend free school meals to children from low-income families during school holidays in England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed a a new £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme will be run by councils in England. Local authorities will receive the funding at the beginning of December 2020.

The funding will be ring-fenced, with at least 80 per cent earmarked to support with food and bills, and will cover the period to the end of March 2021. It will allow councils to directly help the hardest-hit families and individuals, as well as provide food for children who need it over the holidays.

The Holiday Activities and Food programme will also be expanded across England next year. It will cover Easter, Summer and Christmas in 2021, and cost up to £220 million. It will be available to children in every local authority in England, building on previous programmes – including this summers, which supported around 50,000 children across 17 local authorities.

Rashford said: “There is still so much more to do, and my immediate concern is the approximate 1.7 million children who miss out on free school meals, holiday provision and Healthy Start vouchers because their family income isn’t quite low enough. But the intent the government have shown today is nothing but positive, and they should be recognised for that.”

The decision reversal is the latest in a number of u-turns from Johnson and his government this year following changes of policy the second national lockdown, currently in place, extending the furlough scheme and A-level and GCSE results.