Councils confirm no free school meals over summer break
Bruce Sinclair, local democracy reporter
Cash strapped families in Ceredigion and neighbouring Pembrokeshire will not receive payments for their children’s food this summer, despite the cost-of-living crisis.
Since the Covid pandemic, families in receipt of school meals during term time have benefitted from a cash payment into their bank accounts in the school holidays.
The payments were available to learners eligible for free school meals using the benefit criteria rather than pupils in years one and two who access the Universal Primary Free School Meal (UPFSM).
Welsh Government funding for free school meal payments during the holidays introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic has offered three years of extra support.
However, the Welsh Government’s director of education and the Welsh language, Owain Lloyd, has written to all local authority directors of education to confirm that the funding has now ceased.
Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent and Powys councils have found the cash from their own budgets for the school break, but Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire have not.
A spokesman for Ceredigion County Council said: “Although Ceredigion County Council will not be offering free school meals provision during the holidays, we have a number of initiatives that allow children and young people to take advantage of free meals by taking part in a variety of programmes during the summer holidays.
“Food and Fun is an educational programme in the school which provides food and nutrition education, physical actives, nursery sessions and health meals for children during the school summer holidays.
“Ceredigion County Council will host the programme (for 40 children at Ysgol Llwyn yr Eos) for three weeks during the summer holidays. All children who attend will receive a health breakfast and lunch every day, one hour of exercise, play sessions and nutrition workshops. Once a week, the children’s families will join the programme for a family lunch.
“Ceredigion’s Youth Service will also offer a full programme of activities free of charge for young people between 11 and 25 years old during the summer holidays. A percentage of the activities will offer free breakfast and/or lunch for those who attend.”
Pembrokeshire County Council says that it recognises that the scheme was popular with those eligible, and there is information on the council’s website to assist anyone struggling with the Cost of Living.
From September, however, all children in the primary sector will have the option of universal free school meals and the term time support for eligible free school meal pupils will continue.
The council says it is also supporting the School Holiday Enrichment Programme, and will also be running the Food and Fun – Bwyd a Hwyl programme at some of the county’s schools.
A Welsh government spokesman said: “This summer, a wide range of holiday projects will be available across Wales, including the Food and Fun scheme, which we fund and will be available in all 22 local authority areas for the first time.
“We continue to support families through the cost-of-living crisis and have invested more than £3.3bn in programmes and schemes which put money back into people’s pockets.”
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