The DCC holiday food voucher scheme is a way of providing funds to ensure families of children who are eligible for free school meals during term time are able to purchase food over the holidays; to replace the meals a child would have received during a school day.
Devon’s level of food insecurity has risen over the past 12 months, with rates of over 20% in Mid Devon, North Devon, and Teignbridge. The scheme will mean almost 16,000 food vouchers will be distributed to those families in need and that qualify.
The offer over the Easter period will be similar to that provided at Christmas and through the recent half term week. The main form of support will be through vouchers (£15 per week per child) which can be redeemed at a range of supermarkets. For families not able to access a supermarket (online or in person) a food parcel will be available.
There is more information on the scheme.
The voucher scheme will continue to work alongside District Council COVID Hardship Funds, enabling a package of support (e.g. power, travel, advice services) to be awarded to applicants in tandem with food.
Additional funds remain available via the Early Help system so that families in need can be provided with other support alongside food.
The COVID Winter Grant scheme run by Citizens Advice is also continuing, providing households with a grant to help towards energy costs. This helps clients who are facing a choice between heating and eating, this money is designed to cover the ‘heating’ element for a short period of time.
Devon Community Foundation have also been commissioned to map organisations providing food across Devon and help to build networks of support in each area, ensuing that food and associated needs are coordinated.
HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES AND FOOD (HAF) Programme
In November 2020 the Government announced a significant expansion of its tried and tested Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme. In areas of high deprivation this programme has provided healthy food and enriching activities during the summer holidays to children who receive benefits-related free school meals (FSM). It offered valuable support to families on lower incomes, giving them the opportunity to access rewarding activities alongside healthy meals over the school holidays.
For 2021 the programme has been expanded to reach all Local Authority areas and will cover the Easter, Summer and Christmas holiday period. As a result, Devon County Council has recently been allocated a substantial grant of up to £1,793,720 to develop, co-ordinate and deliver the programme which will offer:
- An activity and Food programme for children aged 5 -16 years who are eligible for Free School Meals; with the aim of making it a universal offer where possible.
- The programme will offer inclusive and accessible provision (for example, SEND, young carers, etc).
- The offer will consist of at least 4 hours, for 4 days a week, per child for 4 weeks in the summer, and for one week in Easter and Christmas holidays.
Devon County Council is keen to work with a wide range of partners to maximise resources and opportunities in the development of a county-wide HAF programme. We aim to do this by publicising what’s already on offer, upscaling provision where needed and offering support to develop new provision where gaps have been identified.
The Easter programme will focus on the areas of Devon listed below (top 30% deprivation indices) which is approximately 3,000 children. The intention is to roll it out over the whole county for all 16,000 children who wish to attend over the Summer holidays and Christmas period.
- Central and Chestnut
- Newton Abbot
We have engaged with a range of stakeholders to support us in delivery of the programme which is representative of a wide range of bodies including police, fire and ambulance services, school leaders, public health officials, youth services, social services, charities, voluntary sector, local businesses, district and parish councils.
A steering group, consisting of a wide range of agencies (voluntary, private, independent and statutory) meet weekly to generate ideas, network with key groups to deliver this work, for timekeeping and project management and in order to share information and resources to raise the profile of this programme.
All organisations involved in the delivery of the programme will have to meet framework standards including:
- A hot meal once a day.
- Nutritional education aimed at improving the knowledge and awareness of healthy eating for children.
- Food education for families and carers including advice and training on how to source, prepare and cook nutritious low-cost food.
- Signposting and referring to other services and support that will benefit the children and families who attend.
- Enriching activities with opportunities to develop new skills and knowledge.
- Policies and procedures that meet safeguarding, health and safety, insurance, equality and diversity, legislative requirements.
Information about the programme, together with an Expression of Interest Form for providers was sent out to over 8,000 contacts across Devon and was advertised on the DCC website and via Twitter and other social media outlets. So far, 55 responses from providers have been received. Formal Grant applications must be returned by 3rd March so they can be approved in time for the Easter holidays. Providers will receive 80% up-front and 20% after the Easter holidays, following completion of the evaluation.
In Devon, the programme outcomes fits closely with the priorities of the Children & Young People’s Plan and aims to ensure children who attend will:
- Eat more healthily over school holidays.
- Be more active during school holidays.
- Take part in engaging and enriching activities which support the development of resilience, character and wellbeing along with their wider education attainment.
- Be safe and not be social isolated.
- Develop a greater knowledge of healthy nutrition and healthy eating.
- Be more engaged with school and other local services.
We also want to ensure that, where needed, children and families who participate in this programme can be effectively signposted towards other information and support, for example, health, employment, education and finance.
Chief Officer for Children’s Services
1st March 2021