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Free school meals holiday vouchers doubled for Christmas

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Families in Devon on low-incomes, whose children receive free school meals, will get extra support this Christmas to help them buy food during the holidays.

Over the past year we’ve provided supermarket vouchers worth £15 per child per week of the school holidays to families who qualify for free school meals, so their children don’t go hungry.

We’re doubling that for Christmas, with an extra one-off £30 supermarket voucher, so families will receive a £60 voucher per child for the two-weeks to help with the additional financial pressure the festive period can bring. You can find out more about the free school meals holiday voucher scheme on our website.

Children currently receiving benefits-related free school meals and their families can also take part in our Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) scheme for free over the Christmas break. It aims to provide a wide range of fun and enriching activities and nutritious food in a safe and sociable environment for children and young people to develop new skills or knowledge and try out new experiences, make friends and have fun. You can find out more about the Holiday Activity and Food scheme on our website.

It’s part of a £5 million pound programme we’ve organised with money from the government’s new Household Support Fund to help people who are struggling this winter.

Help with food and utility costs is also available via the government’s Household Support Fund, with applications being made through local district councils. The scheme, which runs until Thursday 31 March 2022, can also be used for things like emergency boiler and heating repairs and housing costs. For more information please visit the Household Support Fund page on our website.

We have also partnered with Citizens Advice Devon to help eligible households using pre-paid meters who are struggling to meet their fuel bills. For more information please visit the Citizens Advice Devon website.

Councillor Roger Croad, Cabinet Member for Communities, said:

“It is clear that the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to put a huge financial strain on some people and the effects are likely to be felt for some time still to come.

“It’s no surprise when so many people in Devon work in sectors such as catering, hospitality, leisure, retail and tourism, which were among the hardest hit over the last 18 months.

“The impact on household budgets means many people are finding it especially difficult now as we move into colder winter months, particularly with the cost of food, energy, water and other essential items.

“In fact more families in Devon are eligible for free school meals for their children than ever before, with numbers soaring during the coronavirus pandemic to the highest levels on record. Nearly 18,500 children in Devon now qualify for free school meals, which equates to nearly 18.5 per cent per cent of all school children in the county and 2500 more children than this time last year.

“We are committed to supporting people in Devon experiencing hardship and this funding will help those who are struggling.

“We’ve worked with our colleagues in the district councils, at Citizens Advice Devon and in our schools and colleges to ensure that this money gets to the people who need it most as quickly as possible, so if you need help I encourage you to get in touch.”

How to access support:

Many families in Devon have seen their financial circumstances change due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.