To ask Her Majesty's Government what estimate they have made of the cost of providing the current free school meals voucher scheme during the upcoming summer holidays. [T]
Provision for free school meals is ordinarily term time only. However, owing to the COVID-19 outbreak, the government fully understands that children and parents face an entirely unprecedented situation over the summer. To reflect this, we will be providing additional funding for a Covid Summer Food Fund which will enable children who are eligible for free school meals to receive food vouchers covering the 6-week holiday period. This is a specific measure to reflect the unique circumstances of the outbreak.
The government has made significant wider support available for children and families at this time. On 10 June, my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, confirmed an additional £63 million to be distributed to local authorities in England to help those who are struggling to afford food and other essentials due to COVID-19. In addition, the government has introduced an uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by around £1,000 a year for the next 12 months as part of an injection of over £6.5 billion by the government into the welfare system.
Additional support has been pledged by various departments across government with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announcing the provision of £16 million for food support through charities, including FareShare and WRAP. DEFRA have also issued 2 million food packages to those who are shielding.
The Department for Education’s Holiday Activities and Food programme ensures that thousands of disadvantaged children have access to enriching activities and nutritious healthy meals over the summer, and is receiving £9 million this year.
More widely, the government has supported families to cope with the impact of coronavirus by introducing a range of support measures, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. Support has also been provided to help families pay their rent or mortgage, access sick pay, and delay tax payments.
In relation to free school meals, this response applies to educational settings in England only. Education is a devolved matter and it will be for each administration to determine the actions they wish to take.