24th Nov, 2020

Solihull Council called on to extend free school meal voucher scheme

Sarah Mason 27th Oct, 2020 Updated: 27th Oct, 2020

SCHOOL children across Solihull will not be handed free school meal vouchers this half term.

Instead families are being pointed to the Council’s Here2Help webpage or to contact them to find out how to access support.

Now there are calls for the council to extend the voucher scheme in the borough as the national refusal is ‘is leaving children at risk of going hungry.’

Last week a parliamentary vote to extend the scheme over holidays until Easter 2021, which saw both borough MPs vote against the motion, was defeated.

Since then a number of councils across the country, including Birmingham, has announced they will give out vouchers to qualifying families over the school holidays.

And Laura McCarthy, Liberal Democrat Councillor and Solihull’s opposition spokesperson for children’s services, education, and skills is calling for Solihull Council to do the same.

She said: “This pandemic has had a huge impact on families in our borough, with so many people in situations that they never would have expected to find themselves in just a few months ago.

“We would like to see Solihull Council follow the lead of councils such as Birmingham, Kingston, and Liverpool and urgently extend Free School Meal vouchers to the holidays so that no family has to worry how to feed their children.

“It has been so heartening to see the community coming together to support families in need across the borough – businesses such as Changes Coffee shop, The Real Junk Food Cafe, EJB Buffets and Banquets, Nadia’s Kitchen, The Three Trees Centre working with the Olive Branch Kitchen, Sbragias Catering, and the Lyndon Pub – but it shouldn’t be up to residents to step in to ensure that no child goes hungry.”

“Liberal Democrats have warned that the Government’s refusal to provide an extension to Free School Meal Vouchers over the school holidays is leaving children at risk of going hungry.

“The message it sends out to struggling families is that they do not matter, that their circumstances are all their own fault and that they have failed their children.

“This is not true.

“Every parent wants to do their best for their children; lack of income is not a failure of character and parents should not be treated as though it is.”

The Council released a statement to clarify the local arrangements in the borough.

It says: “The Council recognises it has been a really difficult year for everyone, especially challenging for those people who are unemployed or who are having to manage on a reduced income. There is a lot of support available for Solihull residents who are struggling financially.

“Some of the confusion around the current debate comes from the continuation of free school meals during Easter. This was organised nationally and was only possible because the schools remained open.

“The situation in this half term is very different.”

The statement went on to say: “We work closely with a number of local foodbanks in Solihull who are happy to support anyone in need.

“The Council’s call centre can help connect you to local community and neighbourhood support or refer you to a local food bank – just call 0121 704 6000.

“Support is also available from The Around Again Social Supermarket in Fordbridge and from Age UK who can do shopping for elderly people with a medical condition or special cultural dietary need.

“For more information on all of the support available you can ring Solihull Connect on 0121 704 6000.”

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