During this time of uncertainty, I understand that many parents across the country are going through a particularly difficult and stressful time. We have never had a period of disruption like this and I know parents and children alike will be longing for a return to normality.
Throughout this period it is right that the Government has encouraged schools to continue providing meals and introduced the free school meal (FSM) voucher scheme, to ensure that those normally eligible for free school meals still receive them, even if they are not attending school.
Many in the Aylesbury constituency have accessed the free school meals support, which I know will have gone some way in easing the worry and financial pressure for a great deal of parents.
Provision for free school meals is ordinarily term time only, being aimed at providing healthy meals for children in school. However, during the Easter and half term holidays the Department for Education met the costs of the national voucher scheme to provide free school meals for eligible pupils. I support and very much welcome that in recognition of the unprecedented situation facing parents and children this summer, a new Covid Summer Food Fund has been announced.
The Fund will provide food vouchers covering the six-week summer holiday period. The scheme will not continue beyondthe summer, and those eligible will be those who already qualify for free school meals. A one-off six-week voucher will be given to eligible families at the end of term to use in supermarkets.
Significant wider support has also been made available for children and families. On 10 June the Prime Minister confirmed an additional £63 million to be distributed to local authorities in England to help those who are struggling to afford food and other essentials due to COVID-19. In addition, Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit have been uplifted by around £1,000 a year for the next 12 months as part of an injection of over £6.5 billion into the welfare system.
Further to this, the Department for Education’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme will also be running this summer at a cost of £9 million, benefiting thousands of disadvantaged children. The HAF scheme arranges provision in a range of local settings, including school premises. I welcome the hard work that has gone into supporting our local families and the proposed extension of free school meals for the summer period.