Free school meal vouchers going out for summer holidays

Families whose children are eligible for free school meals or identified by children’s services as needing further support will receive vouchers to assist with the cost of food over the summer holiday period.

An initial allocation of £60 (£15 per week) for each eligible child will be going out to families from next week to cover the first four weeks of the summer holidays. Another £30 of vouchers will go out later on in the summer to cover the last two weeks of the holidays.

This latest round of vouchers see £1,066,669 in assistance going out to over 7,180 families for over 12,500 eligible children to cover the six week holiday period.

Alongside the voucher support, families are also being given free membership to local food club and pantries. Membership slips are going out with the voucher letters to families that are eligible. Food clubs help families minimise their food costs and are part of the sustainable package of support we have in the borough to support food provision.

The council is funding local food clubs and pantries so that they are able to cope with increased demand.

The total investment into this support is £1,132,699 of which £881,803 was funded by government, the remainder is from council funds. This will be the last round of vouchers after the government confirmed it would not be providing any future funding for them.

Councillor Rachel Massey, cabinet member for children’s services and education, said: “It’s worrying that this latest funding has been described by government as the last. We need a long term answer to this. The number of families on free school meals in our borough has shot up and we need to help them. I’m proud that despite huge budget cuts to the council we’re stepping in to plug the gap in funding. I hope today’s announcement is some reassurance for families in what must be such an uncertain and worrying time.”

This latest announcement sees over £2.9m of support through vouchers provided to families on free school meals in just over a year from both council and government funds.

Councillor Sue Smith, cabinet member for communities and co-operation, said: “We’ve provided extra voucher support during every school holiday period and we’re really proud of that. I’m delighted to invest in sustainable options for our families like our food clubs. It shows what funding councils can achieve. We’re plugging gaps and that has knock on impacts elsewhere and this isn’t fair on our families, they deserve funding for their basic needs.”

Alongside this support the council and Your Trust (formerly Link 4 Life) is running the Holiday Food and Activity Programme for those children who are on free school meals benefit. Events run across the summer holidays from a wide variety of providers and will see fun activities for a variety of age groups where they will also be fed.

Coun Massey continued: “I’m looking forward to seeing so many smiling children at our holiday activities as part of our holiday activity fund funding. It’s been such a challenging period for children and young people, they deserve a summer of fun and we’re looking forward to being part of some fantastic memories.”

If your circumstances have recently changed in these challenging times then you may be eligible for the free school meals benefit. To find out please visit rochdale.gov.uk/school

For any families that are struggling the council also has a wide package of early help support available.

Early help support is extra help we offer to children, young people and their families when they need it, to prevent small problems becoming big problems.

Everyone struggles at times and it is ok to ask for help. The council is here for you and would like to support you with any issues as early as possible.

For more information please visit rochdale.gov.uk/EarlyHelp or you can phone our early help team on 0300 303 8801 or email them at early.help@rochdale.gov.uk

Vouchers are being distributed directly from the council, they are being posted out from 23 July 2021 and so will arrive after then and will take a few days to get out to everyone, there is no need to contact your child’s school about this.

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