Barnet Council could use a small part of the new Covid-19 money to fully fund free school meals for this winter’s holidays. The Government announced an additional allocation of £6.5m to Barnet Council on 22 October, but the Council only pledged £50,000 for free school meals a day later.
The £50,000 works out at 39p per child, per day for the half-term and Christmas holidays – many Councils are providing £15 vouchers per child, per week.
Leader of the Barnet Labour Group, Cllr Barry Rawlings got confirmation from finance officers at last night’s Financial Performance & Contracts Committee (FPCC, 27 Oct) that the new £6.5m Covid-19 money was not ring-fenced for specific things and could be used on any priorities arising from the pandemic.
Cllr Rawlings wrote to Barnet’s Council Leader on Monday to urge him to provide sufficient funding for all children in need to solve holiday hunger during both the October and December school holidays. In his email he says:
“There were 8,600 children on free school meals in January, and since then universal credit claimants have trebled so it now likely to be over 10,000.
“But even at the January figures the £50,000 for the three weeks of winter holiday amounts to only 39p per child per day. Can you honestly say that you believe this will cover the cost of a meal for each child?
“I also agree that children not entitled to free school meals but who are experiencing hardship should not be forgotten. If you include these in the figures the Council’s offer is even more woefully inadequate.
“I urge you to put in place sufficient funding for all children in need and extend the voucher scheme accordingly, so the money goes directly to those in need.”
After the FPCC meeting, Cllr Rawlings said: “This is a question of priorities, and I think the Council should use part of this new Covid-19 money to fully fund free school meals for children in need. It won’t take a lot more money, and it would be worth it to help these children.”
- A copy of Cllr Rawlings’ full email to Barnet’s Council Leader can be found here: https://www.barnetlabour.org.uk/2020/10/26/free-school-meals-labour-response-to-barnet-councils-39p-offer-on-holiday-hunger/