Trudy Dean and Rob Bird have written to Roger Gough, the Leader of KCC, asking for the County Council to provide Free School Meal Vouchers during the forthcoming Christmas holidays.
The letter follows on by the call by Trudy Dean, the Lib Dem Spokesperson for Children, Young Persons and Education at County Hall, for Free School Meals to be provided to all eligible children throughout the year, not just at term time.
The County Council stepped in at short notice to provide Free School Meal vouchers during the recent half-term. Medway Council did the same. Previously, the Government voted down an Opposition motion calling for Free School Meals to be provided during the school holidays. None of Kent & Medway's Conservative MPs supported the motion.
The KCC vouchers were provided for almost 20,000 eligible children in Kent. Sadly, close to 30,000 more children missed out, though some will have been supported by foodbanks and other local organisations.
We very much hope that KCC will provide vouchers for the Christmas holidays and many more eligible children will benefit from the scheme.
The letter sent to Roger Gough is reproduced below.
Free School Meals
We were very pleased to learn that KCC issued almost 20,000 tokens to children eligible for FSM during half-term week. This was an excellent achievement by the Council in a very short timescale. Sadly, because of the short notice which was understandable, many other children missed out. We hope that those most in need were able to get meals through foodbanks and other organisations that stepped in.
We know that you fully appreciate the importance of good nutrition for the development of young children and you recognise the challenges being faced by less well-off families in the current crisis. However, it should not need a pandemic to bring about much needed change. Good nutrition is vital for our children 52 weeks a year, not just in term time. We strongly believe that FSM should be available throughout the year. Nonetheless, we recognise that this is a policy decision which needs to be considered by Government.
In the meantime, Christmas is approaching fast. We very much hope that the Government will take a different stance this time round, and that there will be widespread support from Parliament.
However, this is not guaranteed. Accordingly, we hope you will put plans into place now for Kent County Council to provide vouchers for all Kent children eligible for FSM throughout the Christmas holidays. Hopefully, by asking schools to promote this initiative before the end of term, many more of Kent's c50,000 children eligible for FSM will take up the offer. Indeed, with wider publicity given to the issue well in advance, perhaps we can persuade more parents of eligible children to register for Free School Meals and therefore the Pupil Premium, which accompanies it, could be used to help with the even more needed catch-up work with many of these children.
This initiative would help make these children's Christmas a bit more enjoyable and a bit more nourishing in these difficult times.
With best wishes,
Rob & Trudy