Waltham Council to cover school meals over holidays

Waltham Forest Council will continue to feed children in need over the holidays as local authorities across the country step in to help after the Government’s controversial decision last week.

On October 21, the Government voted 322 votes to 261 not to fund lunches for more than a million children in need over the half-term and Christmas holidays.

The council’s children’s services department will provide food parcels and vouchers, while the borough’s schools have written off dinner debts and given extra food to eligible children.

Free School Meals are available to children in reception, Year 1 or Year 2 at a state school, regardless of household income, or those whose parents receive benefits like Universal Credit.

Waltham Forest Catering, the council’s main provider, has made hot meals, packed lunches and food hampers for children self-isolating at home since early in the pandemic.

Home Office Minister Kit Malthouse said the decision not to fund free meals was “a tough one”.

He argued the Government has done enough by raising Universal Credit £20 a week, adjusting housing benefit and giving £63m to councils to help with hardship funding.

Five Conservative MPs rebelled against their party to vote for the Labour motion to continue funding the vouchers.

This includes MP Caroline Ansell, who quit her government job in protest following the vote.

A number of food banks also support Waltham Forest residents, including Eat or Heat http://eatorheat.org/, the Rukshana Khan Foundation https://www.rukhsanakhanfoundation.org/, Hornbeam https://www.hornbeam.org.uk/cafe/, PL84U Al Suffah http://pl84u-alsuffa.org/ and Al-Fath Trust https://www.alfathtrust.co.uk/.

Residents can find information on whether there are eligible for further financial assistance from the council here: https://www.walthamforest.gov.uk/node/7918

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter