Free school payments agreed for school holidays

Little boy sitting at a table eating pizza and drinking water

At today’s Community & Housing Services Sub-Committee (Tuesday 24 November), Fife Council has agreed support to help families, who receive benefits, whose children get Free school meals if they are asked to stay away from school, due to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

This has been a gap, as children are asked to stay off school and parents are under pressure with an extra meal to provide for a child or several siblings, unexpectedly. For families receiving benefits, whose children get Free School meals, this can be a pressure that was not foreseen. Today we have agreed a mechanism that these families will receive a payment in lieu of their school dinner. Up until recently, we had a community food provision; however, this method will put the payment straight into the family.

All parents and carers who get benefits and whose children are entitled to Free School Meals will receive payments during this year’s Christmas holidays as well as over the schools’ February mid-term and Easter holidays next year.  And we hope to be able to offer Café Inc in one form or another as an additional provision for everyone.

Payments will begin from Friday 4 December.

Councillor Judy Hamilton, Convener of the Housing and Communities Sub Committee, said: “Since the beginning of the pandemic we’ve worked quickly to make sure that the most vulnerable in our communities have food. This included giving a direct cash payment to parents and carers of children registered for benefit-related Free School Meals, over the Summer.

“Over this period, we provided approximately 11,400 families with financial support to help feed their children. Payments ended when schools returned in August and Free School Meals were made available again in schools.

“During the October school-holidays, the hugely successful and popular Café Inc. project was delivered again, as “Café-Inc-To-Go”, across Fife.

“Different and imaginative approaches were taken across different parts of Fife; and activity packs, grab’n’go meals and cooked meals to heat at home, alongside virtual cookery sessions were free to families.

“Our initial reports show that over 18,700 meals (including lunch bags and hot meals) were provided alongside free activities.”

Cllr. Hamilton continued: “It is very clear that we need to provide wraparound support.

Café Inc is available to everyone; and in addition, it’s clear that there is a need for emergency food, and we want people to be able to access community food supplies.

“These are difficult times and we need to look at the other help we can give such as helping people to maximise their money through money information, helping them to apply for everything they are entitled to; give debt advice and fuel top-ups.

“Activities are also important as we can build relationships with families and communities, through fun as well as food together.

“I’m delighted with today’s decision and reiterate our commitment that no child or family should be hungry in Fife.”

To see if your child(ren) are eligible for Free School Meals and to apply visit www.fife.gov.uk/schoolbenefits