MANY children will be looking forward to the half term break, but school holidays can be a stressful time for families struggling financially.
Free school meals are on offer during term time, but many councils are yet to decide whether they'll be available during the upcoming half term holiday.
Schools in England will be closed for a week during October over the half term holiday.
Holiday dates vary by school and local authority but most will be shut from October 25.
The government funded free school meals for eligible children in the school holidays at the height of the pandmeic.
There was also a scheme in place to cover free lunches while schools were closed during lockdowns.
That support has now been replaced with funding for local councils to help hard-up families.
Councils will receive funding from the £500 million Household Support Fund.
Local authorities can choose how to spend the money and decide who is eligible in their areas, but many are yet to announce how it will be spent.
But of the councils we spoke to, all of them said they had yet to finalise a policy for free school meals over half term and Christmas.
If you usually get free school meals during term time, you should contact your local council to clarify their plans for the half term.
The government has provided councils with a fund to cover holiday activities for children from low income families – but this is not expected to run over the half term.
Who is eligible for free school meals?
Children whose parents claim certain benefits are eligible to receive free school meals:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- The guaranteed element of Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
- Working Tax Credit run-on – paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
- Universal Credit – if you apply on or after 1 April 2018 your household income must be less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits you get)
Where to go for extra help
If you find that your council is no longer giving out free school meals, or you're not eligible, there is other support available.
Make sure you're getting all the help you're eligible for by using an online benefits calculator.
Food banks can provide families with emergency supplies – you will need to be issued a voucher by a local community organisation such as a school or GP.
You can search for your nearest food bank on the Trussell Trust website.
If you're worried about your finances, you can contact charities such as Citizens Advice and Turn2Us for free advice.
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