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Monday, 26 October 2020 16:42

Kent and Medway Councils and Free School Meals

Update: 30th October: To leave no doubt as to KCC's position, the Council has issued a progress report on its FSM Voucher Scheme, reproduced below

KCC has just released the excellent news that the families of all Kent children on Free School Meals will receive £15 of vouchers per child during school holidays. You will find a copy of the Media Release below.

Thanks to an initiative by Medway Council and Citizens Advice Medway,  free school meal children will be supplied with meals over the half-term holidays

KCC has 65 Conservative Councillors out of a total of 81, so one might expect it to follow government policy which appears to be to resist pressure to follow the Marcus Rashford route.  However, the announcement comes after KCC Leader Roger Gough pledged that 'no child should ever go hungry during school holidays, or at any time'. Regular browsers of this site will know that I have been highly critical of KCC recently over policy aspects in the coronavirus pandemic, but I am delighted to welcome this decision for the sake of our disadvantaged children. The Conservative majority in the House of Commons voted against extending free school meals for pupils over the school holidays, up to Easter 2021. This included 14 Kent Conservative MPs, apart from Sir Roger Gale, who have a different view to KCC. The only Kent MP who voted in favour was Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield (Lab). 

Medway Council has 32 Conservative Councillors out of 55, so again could have been tempted by government policy. Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett, said: 'We are committed to supporting Medway’s most vulnerable children, especially during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which has caused further financial pressures for some families. We are therefore pleased to be working with Citizens Advice Medway to ensure no child goes hungry this half-term'.  Two of the three Medway Conservative MPs voted against the proposal, including Kelly Tolhurst who was previously an Education Cabinet Member for Medway Council. 

There are certainly arguments for and against the policy, but the government decision not to support it is clearly against the popular and growing mood, with an increasing number of Local Authorities adding to the pressure. 

This must be the most impressive goal scored by an England footballer ever, and an example to others.

 KCC Press Release: Monday 26th October 
Kent County Council has announced vouchers for food are available during half-term for families whose children are eligible for free school meals, so that no Kent child goes hungry.
The county’s families most in need will receive supermarket vouchers for each eligible child to ensure they are able to feed their children outside of term time.
A dedicated helpline has been set up and is now open so that Kent’s low-income families are able to quickly and easily access the help they need when they need it most, including during the school holidays. Families who apply will receive one voucher of £15 per child.
The announcement comes after KCC Leader Roger Gough pledged that no child should ever go hungry during school holidays, or at any time.
Speaking after today’s announcement, Mr Gough said: “Kent County Council and our partners in district and borough councils have already helped thousands of Kent residents, including families with school-aged children, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At the weekend, with the half-term holiday approaching, I reminded residents about the help the Kent Together helpline and webpage offer and urged anyone who was struggling to contact us.
“We have now taken that offer of help a step further, setting up a dedicated helpline families can call to apply for vouchers for Free School Meals to be used in a local supermarket during the school holidays. This dedicated helpline will streamline and speed up the process so we can get urgent help to those that need it.
“This support for families in need has always been in place. I hope, though, that this helpline will enable people who need urgent help to get it, and to get it quickly.
“Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we support the most vulnerable within our community. I hope that this service will quickly provide families with the help they need and ensure that no child in Kent is left to go hungry.”
Anyone eligible for free school meals who needs extra financial support to help feed their children can now visit www.kent.gov.uk/freeschoolmeals or call the dedicated helpline on 03000 41 24 24. You have until next Monday 2nd November 5pm to apply.
 
Medway news item 'Free school meals during half-term in Medway' Friday 23rd October begins as follows:
Medway children eligible for free school meals will continue to receive support during half-term.  
Approximately 6,000 children in Medway currently access free meals during the school term, and thanks to an initiative by Medway Council and Citizens Advice Medway, children will be supplied with meals over the half-term holidays. 
Medway Council was awarded a one-off payment through the government’s Emergency Assistance Grant to provide residents, who are struggling financially, with food and other essential items they need. Citizens Advice Medway is continuing to manage the grant on behalf of the council and as part of its existing contract through the Local Welfare Provision scheme.  
The independent charity is using the Emergency Assistance Grant to provide free school meals to families during October half-term. Families who contact Citizens Advice Medway will be provided information on how they can access free lunches for eligible children during the week.   
Medway Council has contacted schools across Medway and asked them to share details of the initiative with parents and carers.  
 
Update on KCC Progress with Free School Meals Vouchers: 30th October 2020
A Kent County Council spokesperson said: “Making sure that no child goes hungry during the school breaks, or indeed at any time, remains our priority, and we continue to do everything we can to ensure that this is case.
“Following a late vote in the House of Commons, where it was determined that Free School Meals would not be provided to eligible pupils during the half-term holiday, Kent County Council launched its own scheme to provide vouchers at very short notice.
“We know some families are in urgent need of support and would like to reassure everyone who has applied for a voucher that we are doing everything we can to process claims as quickly as we possibly can.
“In just four days we have received nearly 30,000 applications, which demonstrates that by working with our partners, including district and borough councils, schools, voluntary organisations and the media, we have successfully reached out to those that the scheme is intended to help.
Every application has to be validated to check that families are eligible to receive financial support, and our staff are working around the clock to ensure vouchers are issued urgently to those that need them.
“Applicants can select vouchers for either Asda or Tesco, whichever is most convenient for them, and these are for food purchases only for the eligible child.”

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Last modified on Saturday, 31 October 2020 08:10

1 comment

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 28 October 2020 17:43 posted by Despairing Parent

    Credit to Rashford for creating a Child Food Poverty Task Force and raising millions of pounds for children who were unable to avail themselves of the government's free school meal vouchers while schools were closed during the pandemic.

    Liverpool's Sadio Mane also deserves our respect. When asked why he was carrying a cracked i-phone, the Senegalese player said, "Why would I want ten Ferraris, 20 diamond watches and two jet planes? What would that do for the world? I starved, I worked in the fields, I played barefoot, and I didn't go to school. Now I can help people. I prefer to build schools and give poor people food or clothing. I have built schools and a stadium; we provide clothes, shoes and food for people in extreme poverty. In addition, I give 70 euros per month to all people from a very poor Senegalese region in order to contribute to their family economy. I do not need to display luxury cars, luxury homes, trips and even planes. I prefer that my people receive a little of what life has given me."

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