Thousands of West Sussex children to receive food vouchers for half-term

Around 14,000 West Sussex school children are set to receive supermarket food vouchers to cover the February school holiday.

Thursday, 4th February 2021, 2:30 pm
Cabinet member Nigel Jupp said he was very pleased that they are able to increase the value of the vouchers to £20 for the half-term week

West Sussex County Council is providing these for every child who is eligible for Free School Meals over the half-term.

The council has also decided to increase the voucher offer from £15 to £20 over the week-long break, which runs from February 15-19.

The local voucher scheme is the same as the council supplied during the Christmas holidays, when £30 vouchers were distributed to around 14,000 eligible families for the two-week break.

The new vouchers will again be distributed through schools, who have been told how to apply, with the council managing the administrative process.

The local authority received a shout out on Twitter from footballer Marcus Rashford, who led the charge on extending Free School Meals to the holidays.

Nigel Jupp, cabinet member for education & skills, said: “Before Christmas, the council committed funding to cover both the Christmas and February school holidays. After the success of the local scheme over Christmas, I am very pleased that we are able to increase the value of the vouchers to £20 for the half-term week to help support families who are faced with additional winter cost pressures. Schools will contact those who are eligible and I hope this will add to the package of support currently available for West Sussex families.”

The voucher schemes over the two holidays cost around £700,000 and will come from the COVID-19 Winter Support Grant, supplied by the government to support vulnerable children, families and individuals. It is separate from the current, government-run Free School Meal voucher scheme operating during term-time for children who aren’t currently in school because of the national lockdown.

Nationally schools are currently open only to children considered vulnerable and those with a key worker parent and in West Sussex, all of these children are currently receiving free, hot meals in schools using council-run catering services.

Families and individuals who are experiencing financial hardship or in need of supplies, including those not eligible for free school meals, are encouraged to contact the West Sussex Community Hub. It is open from 8am-8pm, seven days a week on 033 022 27980.

Reacting to the news on Twitter, Labour group leader Michael Jones said: “While I recognise West Sussex County Council is finally giving all local eligible parents vouchers rather than insisting on food parcels, it’s really only common sense given the sheer logistical nightmare the council experienced last month. They shouldn’t try to take too much credit as a result.”