Council keep free school meal vouchers running during half-term

Wirral Council is stepping in to provide free school meal vouchers for some of its poorest children during next week’s half-term.

The authority is funding the continuation of the scheme in the borough next week at a cost of £163,000.

The government has brought in a voucher scheme to provide free school meals for eligible children, but this does not cover the cost of adopting the scheme during half-term time.

Wirral’s decision follows a similar move by Liverpool City Council.

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School holidays are not usually covered by the current free school meal scheme, but Wirral Council said it considers it to be even more important than usual to make such a commitment due to the financial impact of coronavirus on families and the greater support they may need.

The free school meals scheme is an online voucher system which is administered directly by the school to families.

The scheme ensures families can use the vouchers in local supermarkets which are open and adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Paul Boyce, Wirral Council’s director of children’s services, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has added extra pressure to families who may already be struggling financially and there are some children in our communities who face the prospect of going hungry if they are not at school.

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“We are continuing our partnership with schools to support these children even when it is holiday time.”

Speaking about the similar move across the water in Liverpool, Cllr Jane Corbett said the government’s position on the voucher system would be highly detrimental to the welfare of children in Liverpool.

She added: “The government has decided to continue to pay the furlough scheme but won’t continue a vital pillar of support for children over the half term week.

“We are protecting adults in this country so why aren’t we giving children the same level of protection?

“Families who struggle to put food on the table will not stop struggling because it’s half term.”