Kirklees Council reveals £1.1million plan to tackle school holiday hunger with free meals

Kirklees Council could step in to fund free school meals during future school holidays with an investment of over £1.1million.

Saturday, 14th November 2020, 7:00 am

The government recently announced that it would provide extra support to families during school holiday periods, but full details have yet to be confirmed.

Therefore, Kirklees Cabinet members are being asked to back a proposal next week which would see the council provide free school meal funding if the government failed to do so.

The funding would be £15 per week for every eligible child, of which there are more than 15,000 across the district. It would cover the Christmas holidays, February half-term and Easter 2021.

School children sit down for their dinner

Council Leader Councillor Shabir Pandor said: “This council will always do the right thing when it comes to our young people; they are our future and they are our priority. Until the government publishes full details about the school holiday support it will provide, we don’t know its intentions. That’s why we are asking Cabinet to confirm that Kirklees Council is ready to step in again.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have made this commitment several times as a show of support for thousands of vulnerable families. School holidays should not mean children and young people go hungry – it’s absolutely essential that we support them to be happy and healthy.

“When the government made clear it would not give vouchers for October half-term, we immediately announced that the council would provide all the funding required. It was inspiring – and a true sign of our community spirit here in Kirklees – that so many organisations and businesses were also keen to help local families.

“We live in the 21st century and the country is gripped by a national health crisis – under no circumstances will this council allow children to go hungry. If the government fail to deliver, we will be ready, we will act and we will invest more than £1.1million in the future of our children and families.”

Last month, the council spent around £232,000 providing free school meal vouchers to eligible families for October half-term.

Coun Carole Pattison, Cabinet member for Learning, Aspiration and Communities, said: “So many families, both locally and nationally, have seen their circumstances change as a direct result of Covid. There are higher levels of disadvantage, more people struggling financially, and we are doing everything possible to tackle this.

“Funding free school meal vouchers, which are distributed to eligible families, helps around 15,000 Kirklees children to access nutritious food when they aren’t in school. We want our children and young people to have the best possible start in life and be supported to fulfil their potential.”

Cabinet members will make a decision on the funding at their meeting on Wednesday, November 18.