Leader of the Council – Minutes – 28 October 2020 (Urgt)

1 NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS FREE SCHOOL MEAL SCHEME – The Director: Learning, Skills and Culture and Director: Governance and Partnerships submitted a joint report seeking approval to introduce a Free School Meal Scheme for eligible children during the school holidays. The proposal was summarised in Appendix 1 to the report, together with options provided to establish the longevity of the scheme. The decision was urgent in order to mobilise the scheme in respect of the October half term 2020.

The Directors in their report stated that the council recognised the impact that COVID-19 had had on families in many different ways and had in place a range of financial support mechanisms for households on low incomes. This included administering grants such as Council Tax COVID-19 hardship discount, emergency financial assistance and the self-isolation grant. Also during the Easter and Summer Holidays a national scheme for children eligible for free school meals received a food voucher. This scheme was now no longer available.

The joint report explained that there were currently almost 6,000 North Lincolnshire children eligible for free school meals. The national scheme had provided a voucher equivalent to £15 a week during the summer holidays and to continue this level support for the week of October half-term would cost an estimated £90k, plus cost of administration of £5k-£10k. Although the cost of this was currently not budgeted with council or school budgets, nor is there a specific government grant, the Government had indicated that local authorities may utilise their allocations for COVID-19 emergency grant for locally determined responses.

In June 2020, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) distributed £63m across upper tier local authorities for councils to establish emergency financial assistance schemes to help those who are struggling to afford food and other essentials due to coronavirus. This was in place locally administered in partnership with Citizen’s Advice Bureau until 31 March 2021.

Enabling children and young people to access free school meals during the school holidays recognised the exceptional circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic had created for some families. The most expedient method for providing a school holiday free school meal scheme in respect of the October half term would be to provide a supermarket voucher retrospectively. As a one-off response the cost would be identified as part of the council’s overall COVID-19 additional cost pressures, funded by the government grant for COVID-19.

Resolved – That the proposed school holiday free school meal voucher scheme for the October 2020 half term period be approved.