To help families deal with the cost of living crisis, senior councillors will be asked to allocate £280,000 to provide youngsters with free school meals over the summer holiday.
At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Cabinet next Tuesday, July 18 councillors will consider a report that outlines the need to support around 2,400 youngsters in the county over the six-week summer holiday.
At the end of June, the Welsh Government told councils across Wales that it would stop funding free school meals (FSM) holiday payments.
Funding for FSM during holidays by the Welsh Government started in March 2020 as part of the COVID-19 pandemic response and was extended numerous times up until the May half term.
The Government has said that it no longer has the money to do this, and the decision has been criticised by opposition Senedd Members as well as its own Labour back benchers.
The holidays in Powys start on Monday, July 24 and children will return to school on Monday, September 4.
The council has calculated that the cost of providing free school meals over 30 days at a cost of £3.90 each for 2,400 children will be £280,000.
The joint report by the director of economy and environment, Nigel Brinn and the interim director of education and children’s services, Lynette Lovell, sets out two options for the Cabinet: a do nothing approach or use one off funding from the Central Risk Budget for the scheme.
Mr Brinn and Mrs Lovell said: “If we extend the support for eligible families this would provide immediate support for vulnerable families, whilst also taking the opportunity to alert those families to the fact that that no further vouchers will be provided.
“It is considered that the late notice of the cessation of the voucher scheme will have a particularly detrimental impact on low income families as they will not only lose out on the voucher scheme but will also have very limited time to adjust their finances to overcome their withdrawal.”
The directors point out that this is “very fast moving situation” and are “aware” that several other Welsh councils have already committed to continuing the scheme or developing alternatives to help low income families for the summer.
They said: “The extension of this provision would be for one year only and will provide for greater time for our eligible families to make the necessary adjustments to their budgets to accommodate the removal of this scheme.”
If councillors agree the funding – the money will be moved from the risk budget to the council’s catering services who will continue to administer the scheme over the summer.