Liberal Democrat Councillors have ensured that the most vulnerable children in the city will have access to Free School Meal vouchers over Easter break.
City of York Council utilised the Government’s Covid-19 Winter Grant to ensure all eligible children had support for food over the Christmas and February half-term holidays. Now it is once again funding the vouchers for the two-week Easter break, as the national free school meals programme only covers term time.
Earlier this month, additional funding of £205k to maintain the winter grants scheme to 16th April 2021 was approved by councillors to continue providing financial support to over 600 of the city’s most financially vulnerable residents through the ongoing pandemic.
Take-up of the grant has been high and without additional local funding, the scheme would have needed to close in early February. The extra funding of £205k to maintain the fund has now been allocated from the York Financial Assistance Scheme (YFAS), after the Council invested £1million in the YFAS scheme at the start of the pandemic.
The Council has for the first time also been awarded the government’s Holiday Activities and Food programme funding (HAF), which provides healthy food and activities to targeted children. The Easter sessions, which will be held at Clifton Green and Westfield Primary Schools, will be used as pilots, with plans to roll the scheme out to more children during the summer holidays.
Cllr Keith Orrell, Executive Member for Children and Education, commented:
“In October, the Council stepped in when Government failed to support hungry children through the half-term school holidays. Although we welcome the numerous u-turns they have made since, the Council is still stepping up to up to patch-up central government failure to provide councils with all they need to support residents.
“The pandemic has exposed the financial vulnerability that too many families experience. Those significant challenges have had to be met with an unprecedented response. The impact of Covid-19 continues to be felt and this additional support to those families and children who need it the most will be welcomed I am sure.
“We will also continue to campaign for longer term solutions which acknowledge the struggles facing York’s families and call for a nation-wide strategy to address child poverty.”