Parents and guardians of Fife children who receive means-tested free school meals are to receive direct cash payments for youngsters during holidays and in the event of Covid-related absence from school.
Fife Council’s Community and Housing Services Sub-Committee has agreed to resume payments to parents outside of term time after the direct contributions were dropped at the start of the 2020/21 school term.
Prior to schools returning in August, vulnerable families were receiving a £11.50 weekly payment per child in lieu of free school meals – but this was dropped upon the return to school.
Councillors have also agreed to issue direct cash payments in place of school meals in the event that a child is sent home because of a coronavirus outbreak at their school – an issue that has been overlooked until now.
The cost of the direct payments is yet to be ascertained.
However, the Scottish Government is making a total of £10m available to councils to tackle food insecurity outside of term time between now and Easter next year.
Fife Council will also have a £1.355m share of the Scottish Welfare Fund to draw on to support people in local communities througout the crisis.
The new policies, agreed yesterday have been drawn up following local school outbreaks and efforts to feed children outside of term time across Fife.
Between August and October this year 2,100 children were forced to stay home because of the need to self-isolate – approximately a fifth of whom may have been eligible for free school meals that they missed out on as a result, with no cash payment to fall back on.
The council has also been informed by how its own holiday hunger scheme, Cafe Inc, has provided meals outside of term time in light of Covid-19. The enterprise distributed approximately 18,700 meals during the October holidays, along with activity packs and virtual cooking sessions.
Councillor Judy Hamilton, convener of the committee, described the payments as “very good news” for hard-up families.