Local families are set to enjoy a happier festive break after Kirklees Council put forward new plans to provide free school meal vouchers to over 15,000 children.

Subject to formal agreement by the Kirklees Cabinet, around £460,000 has been allocated to help children and young people stay fed over the two-week break from school.

As another part of the council’s support for children and families, Cabinet members are also being asked approve free school meal vouchers for February half-term in 2021 costing a further £230,000.

It is expected that funding will be allocated to each school and spent on vouchers worth £15 per week for each eligible pupil.

Council Leader Cllr Shabir Pandor said:

“Supporting children and young people is our absolute priority. Covid-19 is having the biggest impact on the poorest families – allocating these funds is another way we are investing in our children’s futures and helping vulnerable people to cope with the pandemic.

Since the beginning of Covid-19, we have worked closely with schools, settings and other partners to wrap support around our children and families. We have been committed to ensuring children have access to a wide range of help and, in particular, that they don’t experience hunger.

The holiday periods are often difficult for children and families, both physically and mentally, and we are ensuring nutritious meals can be provided at home. This is essential to children staying healthy and having the best start in life.”

Cllr Carole Pattison, Cabinet member for Learning, Aspiration and Communities, said:

“We will not allow children’s wellbeing to suffer when they aren’t in school. As well as affecting their health, this can also mean they are less ready to learn once the holidays are over and they are less likely to fulfil their potential.

“Helping our residents to stay as well as possible is a central part of the Kirklees response to Covid-19. This funding will make a huge difference, not only in the coming months but by achieving better long-term outcomes for thousands of young people.”

In a wider move to help some of the most vulnerable people in the district, the council is using its Local Welfare Provision scheme to meet the needs of residents who are without food and essential supplies over winter.

Proposals to fund free school meal vouchers went to the Kirklees Cabinet last month, but a decision had to be slightly delayed pending announcements from central government. Looking further ahead, a Cabinet meeting early in the new year will set out the support for disadvantaged children and families throughout 2021.