Free School Meals (FSM) have been provided to children from low-income households for the last 100 years. Usually, this provision is only available during term time, however, to reflect the entirely unprecedented situation this summer, the Government provided a Covid Summer Food Fund and temporarily extended the eligibility criteria for FSM. By the 15 June, vouchers worth over £154 million had been redeemed by schools and families.
The Department for Education also ran the Holiday Activities and Food programme to ensure that thousands of disadvantaged children had access to enriching activities and nutritious healthy meals over the summer. This is on top of an additional £63 million distributed to local authorities in England to help those who are struggling to afford food and other essentials due to COVID-19, and the provision of 2 million food packages to those who were shielding.
Fundamentally, as the extension of FSM was always planned to be a temporary measure, the Government made sustainable plans to help families pay their rent or mortgage, access sick pay, and delay tax payments. This included an uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by around £1,000 a year for 12 months, as part of an injection of over £6.5 billion into the welfare system. This means an extra £20 a week for recipients, which will continue through half term, Christmas, the spring half term and the Easter holidays.
More widely, the Government has supported families to cope with the impact of coronavirus by introducing a range of support measures. Over 11.5 million people have been supported by these schemes, meaning that millions of families have continued to receive a pay cheque every month.
There is still more that can be done for the most vulnerable, but overtly partisan political manoeuvres like we’ve seen from the Labour Party are in no way helpful to improving the livelihoods of our people. We need sustainable, long-term support for families, tailored and targeted for our community, and that is what I will continue to vote for.