Support for families this winter

24 November 2020
The government has released details of its Covid Winter Grant Scheme, showing how the £170 million scheme will be administered.

This new scheme, which was announced by the government on 8 November, is designed to support children, families and the most vulnerable over winter, including through support with the cost of food, energy and water bills and other associated costs.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will issue the funding to local authorities who will have responsibility for administering the scheme and providing direct assistance to vulnerable households and families with children particularly affected by the pandemic. It’s a relief to see that the guidance issued by DWP makes specific note that support is available to families who normally have access to free school meals during term time.

The guidance also acknowledges that local authorities are the best placed to decide how best to support those in need in their areas and allows for the money to be spent in a variety of different ways, including direct cash payments, vouchers, providing meals to those in need or boosting funding for organisations already doing so. We hope to see LAs working with local schools as they will be able to quickly identify families that need support.

This new scheme runs alongside the government’s Holiday Activities and Food programme which has been expanded to cover Easter, summer and Christmas holidays in 2021. Meanwhile, the devolved administrations have also taken steps to ensure children do not go hungry over the holidays:

  • The Northern Ireland Executive will continue with direct payments for FSM in the holidays until the end of the current mandate (April 2022).

  • The Welsh government has announced plans to provide free school meals for all school holidays up to and including Easter 2021

  • The Scottish Goverment has committed £10 million to fund free school meals over Christmas, the February break and Easter 2021

At School Food Matters we are greatly encouraged to see this shift by government, which will mean many more children receive support and nourishment this winter and beyond. The next bold step government needs to take is to extend eligibility for free school meals so that no child is left behind and is well nourished and ready to learn. The campaign continues!