Rotherham Council’s Cabinet have agreed that eligible children will continue to receive free school meals until at least next Easter.
Since the start of the pandemic, the number of children eligible for free school meals in the borough has risen by 25% to more than 11,000, and arrangements have been made through the school holidays to provide vouchers to families who benefit from meals during term time. The council is now set to commit £1.1 million of government grant to ensure that this continues through the Christmas, February half term, and Easter 2022 holidays.
In May this year, a report from the charity Save the Children indicated that more than 1 in 3 children in the Rotherham borough now live in poverty, a 5% increase since 2014/15.
Councillors will also use the money to increase support with council tax bills to low income working age households – a measure expected to benefit more than 14,000 families, while a further £30,000 will be made available to voluntary sector organisations supporting vulnerable people over the Christmas and New Year break.
Labour Leader of Rotherham Council, Cllr Chris Read said: “The cuts to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits have left a huge hole in the finances of many local families, at a time when bills are rising and the Conservatives’ National Insurance rise is only months away. As we head towards the festive period when pressure on family budgets is often at its highest, we want to ensure as many residents as possible get the benefit of this support in the simplest way possible.
“We know that the holiday vouchers to support children who receive free school meals during term time have made a real difference over the last few months, but we’ve only been able to fund them one holiday at a time. So it’s good to be able to give families some certainty about the support they’ll get over the months ahead.”
Images: Rotherham NHS