25th Nov, 2020

Warwickshire Labour councillors claim only one in 10 children eligible for free school meals have been reached this half-term

Editorial Correspondent 30th Oct, 2020 Updated: 30th Oct, 2020

JUST ten per cent of children entitled to free school meals have been reached by Warwickshire County Council this half term, Labour councillors have claimed.

The group raised concerns more than half way through the October holiday after it was revealed fewer than one in 10 children eligible for free school meals had received the support they were entitled to.

Warwickshire County Council said its welfare scheme would be providing funding for meals throughout the holidays.

But it had reached just under 1,020 out of some 11,400 children eligible.

This follows the county council’s pledge to step up after government voted against extending its free school meals scheme to the Easter holidays.

Local MPs who voted against the campaign – which was spearheaded by footballer Marcus Rashford – include Rugby MP Mark Pawsey, Southam and Kenilworth MP Jeremy Wright and Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi.

Following the vote, Warwickshire Labour Group leader Helen Adkins, with the backing of local Labour leaders, wrote to the council calling on it to ensure children would not go hungry over the holidays.

Her calls were echoed by Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western who voted for providing meals.

Warwickshire Labour leader Coun Helen Adkins said: “It is clear from these figures the council’s attempt to step in to fill the gap has failed. So few children accessing the food they desperately need is a sign this welfare scheme isn’t fit for purpose. I know council officers are working hard to help, but the leadership of the council need to urgently re-think this scheme, and ensure it is overhauled before the Christmas holidays.

“I salute the work of many community organisations, local businesses and individuals who have stepped up to provide food to children in the school holidays, but the reality is that this is a sign of government and local authority failure.

“We believe it is essential the government U-turns before the Christmas holidays and if it does not, Warwickshire County Council must overhaul its system so those children in need of support are sure to receive it.”

A Warwickshire County Council spokeswoman responded the authority had provided over £450,000 of support to families through the covid period and continued to provide support to families relying on free school meals through all school holidays.

She said: “The scheme has been publicised extensively through the local media and through social media channels and we are pleased that over 1,000 families have reached out to use the scheme this half term.

“Free school meal support is just one element of the Warwickshire Local Welfare Scheme that helps our most vulnerable residents at times of unavoidable crisis by providing basic and essential help. The scheme has been running for seven years.

“This is in addition to 27 local projects set up around the county using grant funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to help people access food and essential items. Projects include fruit and veg bags, meal deliveries and community cafes. This extra support complements the ongoing work by Warwickshire’s community and voluntary sector and network of food banks.

“The Warwickshire Local Welfare scheme is open to help our most vulnerable residents at times of unavoidable crisis when they have no other means of help.”

Visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/localwelfarescheme to apply for support or www.warwickshire.gov.uk/foodsupport for food support.

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