The Welsh Government has guaranteed free school meal provision for all school holidays up to and including Easter 2021, thanks to £11m confirmed today by Education Minister Kirsty Williams.
The move has been backed by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford saying he welcomed ‘the Welsh Government's swift response to this urgent need in protecting the most vulnerable children across the country.’
Making the announcement ahead of the October half term through a video released on her Twitter channel, the Minister said she hoped the confirmation would provide ‘some reassurance in these times of uncertainty’.
The Minister also confirmed that more than £700k had also been allocated to support colleges with the equivalent provision for eligible learners.
Speaking today, the Minister said:
“We have worked tirelessly this year to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and the countless challenges it has presented but we have not, and will not, forget those for who school is about far more than education.
“I am pleased to confirm that we have today made £11m available to provide free school meal provisions over every school holiday up to and including Easter 2021.
“I really hope this provides some reassurance in these times of uncertainty.”
Marcus Rashford MBE added:
"Holiday provision is vital to stabilising households during the school closures, given the devastating effects of COVID-19.
“Having this framework in place for the foreseeable future will have a significantly positive impact on children who are struggling to engage in learning due to anxiety and fear, not to mention the noise of their rumbling stomachs.
“No child in 2020 should be sat in a classroom worried about how they are going to access food during the holidays, and the impact that will have on their parents when matched with unemployment, ill health and, in some cases, personal loss.
“There is still so much more work to be done to protect this next generation but I welcome the Welsh Government's swift response to this urgent need in protecting the most vulnerable children across the country. Our children and their welfare should never not be the priority."
Ensuring the continuation of free school meal provision has been a key priority for the Welsh Government as it has responded to the coronavirus pandemic - it had already allocated £41.7m before today’s announcement bringing the total now to £52.7m.
When the Minister announced she would close schools on Wednesday, March 18 she quickly confirmed that £7 million would be made available to local authorities to put in place measures to ensure that children eligible for free school meals would continue to benefit from this scheme.
Then on April 22 Wales became the first country in the UK to guarantee ongoing funding for children to continue to benefit from free school meal provision up to and including the end of the summer holidays.
On September 20, after schools had reopened, the Minister confirmed at least £420,000 had been made available to ensure all pupils entitled to free school meals would continue to receive provisions if they were shielding or had to self-isolate.