Free school meal payments to continue over half-term in Nottinghamshire

Children in Nottinghamshire who receive free school meals will continue to do receive vouchers from their schools over February half-term.

By Kit Sandeman
Thursday, 21st January 2021, 3:00 pm

Department for Education advice issued last week said: “Schools do not need to provide lunch parcels or vouchers during the February half-term.”

However, the Conservative-controlled county council, and Labour-run city council, have both said they will continue distributing funds to schools, which can then be given out as vouchers to families.

A £2.3 million winter covid grant – partly spent over Christmas – has been spread out so that enough was left to spend over the February half term, and families will continue to get payments.

Nottinghamshire County Council will continue funding free school meals over the February half-term

The government set up the package last November, under pressure from anti-poverty campaigner and footballer Marcus Rashford.

At least 80 percent of the £2.3 million will go to families, while the remaining funds can be spent on vulnerable families for costs like utility bills.

As well as parents with school-age children, school leavers, those in early-years education and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are also eligible for support.

County council bosses said a decision had been made to ensure families would still continue to receive the £15 a week over the upcoming holiday.

Colin Pettigrew, the council’s director for children, said: “You’ll be aware in the media that there’s quite a growing view that there should be free school meals for all children in the February half-term.

"Well in Nottinghamshire that’s already sorted.”

Coun Liz Plant, Labour’s children spokeswoman, said: “There has been nothing but chaos and confusion with regard to the Government’s response to free school meals provision in the holidays during the pandemic, and at every turn it seems the Government has been shamed into doing the right thing.”

Coun Philip Owen, chairman of the council’s children and young people’s committee, which took the decision, said: “Many families here in Nottinghamshire, and across our country, have been badly affected by the coronavirus.

“We need to do all we can to help vulnerable people who are struggling, including parents with young children, so they can continue to cover essential costs this winter.

“I’m pleased that this funding is being used to help our communities get through some very tough times and look forward to a brighter future.”