A free school meals voucher scheme launched by Kent County Council to provide for eligible children during the holiday received almost 30,000 applications in its first four days.
The authority introduced the vouchers following the voting down on Wednesday, October 21 of a Labour motion to provide free school meals during the holidays over school breaks until Easter 2021. The motion fell by 322 votes to 261.
Thanet businesses, residents and schools pulled together to offer free meals to those in need at venues across the isle.
Shortly afterwards KCC announced that the county’s families most in need would receive supermarket vouchers for each eligible child to ensure they were able to feed their children outside of term time.
A dedicated helpline was set up so that low-income families in Kent were able to quickly and easily access the help needed. Families who applied received one voucher of £15 per eligible child.
A Kent County Council spokesperson said: “Making sure that no child goes hungry during the school breaks, or indeed at any time, remains our priority, and we continue to do everything we can to ensure that this is case.
“Following a late vote in the House of Commons, where it was determined that Free School Meals would not be provided to eligible pupils during the half-term holiday, Kent County Council launched its own scheme to provide vouchers at very short notice.
“We know some families are in urgent need of support and would like to reassure everyone who has applied for a voucher that we are doing everything we can to process claims as quickly as we possibly can.
“In just four days we have received nearly 30,000 applications, which demonstrates that by working with our partners, including district and borough councils, schools, voluntary organisations and the media, we have successfully reached out to those that the scheme is intended to help.
“Every application has to be validated to check that families are eligible to receive financial support, and our staff are working around the clock to ensure vouchers are issued urgently to those that need them.
“Applicants can select vouchers for either Asda or Tesco, whichever is most convenient for them, and these are for food purchases only for the eligible child.”
Anyone eligible for free school meals who needs extra financial support to help feed their children can now visit www.kent.gov.uk/freeschoolmeals or call the dedicated helpline on 03000 41 24 24. You have until Monday, November 2, 5pm, to apply.
Meanwhile, the KentTogether helpline remains open for any other Kent resident who needs support with food, collection of medication and prescriptions and other urgent needs during the pandemic, 24 hours a day. You can get help by visiting www.kent.gov.uk/kenttogether or calling 03000 41 92 92.