Council pledges support for families who would normally receive free school meals

Oct 26, 2020 | Local News

A council is to step in to support families during next week’s half term holiday by providing support to those who would normally receive free school meals.

Senior members of Durham County Council’s Cabinet have met to discuss a scheme to provide support for eligible families.

The urgent talks follow Wednesday’ House of Commons vote against extending the national school meals scheme to cover school holiday periods.

The authority also says that, given the importance of the issue, if the Government position does not change, it will also ensure that support is provided during the Christmas holidays.

Cllr Angela Surtees, Cabinet member for social inclusion, said: “Sadly, there are a significant number of families across our region who are struggling to make ends meet.

“Many are unable to buy the basics and sometimes school is the only place where their children are able to eat a proper cooked meal. This means that during the holidays, children are left hungry or their parents go without in order to feed their families.

“This is not a situation we can allow to happen. We are absolutely determined that no child will go hungry in County Durham and, if the Government does not help, then we will ensure that provision is in place for children in County Durham.”

The End Child Poverty coalition published figures earlier this month showing that 35 per cent of children in the north east are living in poverty. An estimated 16,500 children in County Durham receiving free school meals during the last academic year.

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “The pandemic has made life even more difficult for many families throughout our region and it is essential that we do all we can to support them.

“As a council, we already operate a number of schemes to provide financial support to those in need, but if there is more we can do then we must take that opportunity.”