Question to the Department for Education:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken to arrange for restaurants and cafes to provide children who qualify for free school meals with meals during school holidays.
Free school meal (FSM) eligibility criteria is a devolved policy. In England, under the benefits-based criteria, 1.7 million of the most disadvantaged pupils are eligible for and claiming a free school meal. An additional 1.3 million infant aged children can also access a free, healthy and nutritious meal at lunchtime, following the introduction of the Universal Infant Free School Meal policy in 2014.
Under the benefits-based criteria, to be eligible to receive FSMs, a pupil or their parent must be in receipt of specific welfare benefits and must make a claim to the school for FSMs. The criteria are available at: https://www.gov.uk/apply-free-school-meals.
Schools provide free school meals for eligible pupils during term time. Beyond that, billions of pounds of welfare assistance is in place to support families and children. Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak and during the period in which schools were largely closed, the department funded around £450 million supermarket vouchers through the National Voucher Scheme. Since November 2020, the Department for Work and Pensions has put in place funding to support vulnerable households across the country. The latest fund is the DWPs £500 million Household Support Fund to help families and individuals with essentials over the coming months as the country continues its recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak. This fund will allow local authorities to directly help the hardest-hit families and individuals with daily needs such as food, clothing and utilities.
The recent Budget also confirmed the continuation of the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme, with an investment of over £200 million per year. Operated through local authorities and taking place in schools and community venues across England, national delivery began at Easter 2021 and has run across the summer and will run in the Christmas holidays. It supports disadvantaged pupils and their families with enriching activities, providing them with healthy food, helping them to learn new skills, providing physical activity, nutritional education, and supporting socialisation and well-being. Local authorities are required to operate against the core HAF objectives including the provision of food that meets the school food standards but have freedom to determine the delivery approach, for example working with local partners, businesses and supermarkets.