I welcome the action that was taken to ensure that eligible children were still able to get free school meals during the period of partial school closures and over the summer holidays. The national voucher scheme saw over £380 million worth of voucher codes redeemed into supermarket e-gift cards by schools and families with over 20,000 schools placing orders.
The eligibility criteria for Free School Meals was temporarily extended. This included some groups who have no recourse to public funds. Further details can be found here - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance/guidance-for-the-temporary-extension-of-free-school-meals-eligibility-to-nrpf-groups
While schools were restricted from opening to all pupils, additional support was given to families in recognition of the unprecedented levels of disruption and uncertainty for Island schools during this time. However, provision for free schools' meals is ordinarily term-time only.
There is already substantial additional support for Islanders, such as increased universal credit among other measures, which has already been put in place to help families through this crisis and to ensure children and their families do not go hungry. The Government has put in £9 billion extra into welfare support already and £63 million to help Councils support families in need, so significant additional help is already going to families on the Island and across Britain.
I am very aware that many families are going through tough times at the moment, and this is reflected in the increasing numbers of children being registered for free school meals. On this matter, my team and I are working hard to ensure Islanders get the support they need. However, if you or your family are struggling, I urge Islanders to contact me.
Ministers are monitoring this situation closely. I welcome the publication of the first part of the National Food Strategy, which will kick start a full review of our food system.
I have read with interest the recommendations made in the report, in particular those concerning nutrition for disadvantaged families and children. A key recommendation is to expand the number of eligible children for free school meals by an additional 1.5 million, taking the total number of children to 2.6 million.
The coronavirus outbreak has made the importance of good nutrition for children even clearer. I know that Ministers will consider these recommendations carefully.