We are aware of confusion caused by reports in the media about the provision of free school meals over half term.
As was the case at Christmas, vulnerable families will continue to receive help with food and other essentials such as energy bills over February half term via councils, through the £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme launched last year. This is to make sure that schools do not have to remain open over the holidays to carry on providing this vital resource.
Some reports suggest that this is not the intended purpose of the Covid Winter Support scheme, this is incorrect and to suggest otherwise is wilful misinterpretation of the facts.
So, what is the case with Free School Meals over the February half term?
The government will continue to provide support for pupils who would normally receive Free School Meals until they have returned to the classroom.
The Prime Minister made clear that we will continue to provide support for pupils who would normally receive free school meals while they are learning at home. Schools can provide lunch parcels or provide vouchers either arranged locally or ordered through the national voucher scheme.
We know that many schools do not want to deal with cash – especially during a pandemic – so vouchers and food parcels are the most effective and flexible solution. Schools know best what families in their area need. Therefore, we have provided the flexibility of local vouchers, which will be reimbursed and backdated to 4 January.
Beyond that – as was the case at Christmas – vulnerable families will continue to receive help with food and other essentials such as energy bills over February half term via councils, through the £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme launched last year. This is to make sure that schools do not have to remain open over the holidays to carry on providing this vital resource.
Can I hear more about the Covid Winter Grant Scheme?
Councils received half of their Covid Winter Grant Scheme allocations in December, with a further 25% due at the end of February and the remainder at the end of the scheme.
Funding is ring-fenced, with at least 80% earmarked to support with food and bills and will cover the winter period to the end of March 2021. Local Authorities received the funding at the beginning of December 2020, a further 25% is due at the end of February, and 25% will be allocated at the end of the scheme.
The Department of Work and Pensions has been working closely with all local authorities involved to ensure successful delivery of the Covid Winter Grant Scheme.
Most of these have confirmed that they intend to specifically support children in receipt of free school meals through the money given to them via the Covid Winter Grant Scheme. However, we would emphasise that the scheme was always designed to go beyond food provision, and also encompasses other uses, and provide support to a broader group of families during the winter period, should they need it.