Published 26th October 2020
Councillor Ian Gilbert, Labour Leader of Southend Council, says “The Government may not feel that feeding vulnerable and hungry children is important, but we in Southend will look after our own. As soon as it became clear after last Wednesday’s House of Commons vote and representations over the following days that the government will not be extending the Free School Meals scheme to cover the half-term holidays, we had to move quickly to ensure that families in Southend who are normally eligible for free school meals do not face hardship – details of how to access help along with a helpline number will be made available from tomorrow morning.”
Update Tuesday 27th October: The support being provided is in the form of a £15 pre-paid card (one for each eligible child) to be used to buy food. If your child normally receives free school meals please get in touch with the council by email to email@example.com or on 01702 215841. Lines are open 9am – 5pm Tues, Wed and Thurs, and until 4pm on Friday this week.
The government has given the council a fair bit of money to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, but far less than the amount that the council has had to spend in dealing it and the associated loss of income. This money for the free school meals scheme is being paid from the Council’s budget, not with Government largesse, but it is vital that families who are already struggling do not find themselves in a position where they are unable to feed their children, which would cause even more of a strain on council resources. Everyone who is eligible for free school meals (which includes a large number of working parents on low incomes) is eligible to apply for help during half-term and Southend Labour encourages them to do that.
The council is also working with other voluntary agencies who are already providing further support for families and those in need such as Southend Citizens Advice and Southend Foodbank and extends its thanks to all the local volunteers and businesses for all the support they’re offering.
Background information on the government’s actions has been posted on the Channel 4 News Fact check page.