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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

No child will go hungry at half term in Tameside

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

If a child is going hungry because the family aren’t able to afford food, then surely it is the duty of others to step in and help if they can. That is self-evident at any time, but perhaps more so at the moment when families are subject to increased financial pressures due to the impact of Covid-19 on jobs and incomes.
 
Prior to the onset of Covid-19 successive governments have supported the principle of Free School Meals for families on low incomes. That is to be welcomed. As was the commitment by the current government to provide free school meals over the school holidays this summer. They rightly recognised the pressures families are under, the need to do something extra to help, and to ensure children didn’t go hungry.

 
So what has changed? The situation regarding Covid-19? No. Sadly, the virus is still with us and the impact on families is considerably greater now we have moved into Tier 3 restrictions. The government’s policy towards Free School Meals? Yes. Unfortunately, and inexplicably, the government have refused to provide the same support over this half term break as they did over the summer holidays. Despite calls from all quarters – including some of their own MPs – that this continued support is vital, the government have refused to provide a national scheme. To me it flies in the face of common sense and basic decency. The campaign led so inspirationally by Marcus Rashford has shown there is overwhelming support in the country for an end to food poverty for children.
 
When it became clear last week the government weren’t going to help I decided we had to step in. I couldn’t stand by and do nothing. At the weekend I made the commitment to a half term free school meal voucher scheme for children in Tameside. I’m pleased to say my colleagues moved quickly and set up a local scheme within days.
 
Launched this week the scheme provides a £15 supermarket voucher from Tesco or Asda for any child attending a Tameside school who is eligible for income based free school meals. Applying for the voucher is simple. Parents or carers just need to go onto the Tameside Council website (at www.tameside.gov.uk/voucher) and complete a form with a few key details. They will then be contacted to confirm whether the application has been successful, following some appropriate record checks to ensure the support is going to the right people. A voucher from either Tesco or Asda will then be e-mailed to the parent or carer. If parents or carers are unsure about filling in the form or don’t have access to the internet they can contact the Early Help Access Team on 0161 342 4260 to talk through the process.
 
Likewise, if families need any other urgent support they can contact the team on the number above. There is also information on wider help available for children and families on our website at www.tameside.gov.uk/earlyhelp/neighbourhoods

 
 


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