Manchester children to get free school meals at October half-term via supermarket vouchers

Free school meal support is being extended into the October half-term holidays by Manchester City Council.

School dinners Credit: Shutterstock

Plans to extend voucher provision into the break later this month were announced and approved on Wednesday at an executive council meeting.

As a result, supermarket vouchers worth £15 per eligible child, from nursery through to Year 14, will be funded by the council over the October half term.

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The council said the move is a response to the government’s decision to end the Universal Credit uplift, as well as growing fuel prices and financial pressures on the the most in need Manchester families.

The vouchers will be distributed via schools and are for all children who are currently in receipt of free school meals.

Money to fund the voucher scheme is coming from government grants.

What’s been said about the move?

Introducing the measures at this afternoon’s meeting, Coun Gary Bridges, executive member for children’s services, said: “I’m really pleased that we are yet again extending free school meal voucher support for families in Manchester over half term.

“We were one of the first councils in the country to do that at the start of the pandemic and we have kept it throughout and I know in a lot of other places that’s not the case.

“One of the things that we were really worried about was the Universal Credit cut, which I know that we’ve all been campaigning against.

“There are a lot of families for whom benefits really don’t allow them to feed their children and pay their rent and heat their homes, so we were really worried about them losing £20 a week and for them to lose the free school meals support that they’ve had throughout the pandemic at the same time.”

He added that families can’t carry on depending on this kind of support, from holiday to holiday with support being offered at relatively short notice.

He said: “We do need a proper rethink from government where benefits are actually paid at a level where people can afford to support their families.

“So I’m pleased that we’ve done it, but not that we needed to.”