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'Significant increase' in free school meals claims this year

More city students are in need of free school meals this year after Peterborough City Council received a "significant increase" in claims.
Lunch Box
'Significant increase' in free school meals claims this year (photo: Pixabay)

Since the beginning of the year, the need for free school meals has increased, with 620 new claims this year alone. 

Wendi Ogle-Welbourn, executive director, people and communities wrote in the Health and Wellbeing Board report to be presented at an upcoming meeting that the increase in numbers will mean around £18m of additional funding for PCC over the course of six years.

Along with the claims for free school meals, Peterborough City Council also supported families with food during the half term, having sent information to parents through schools about the hub arrangements across Peterborough - the number of requests made for Peterborough was 42 (111 children). 

Since the October half term, the provision of free school meals has since been extended to include Christmas and half terms for next year, rather than just in school time. In November the government made a U-turn following footballer Marcus Rashford's food poverty campaign, with £170m to support disadvantaged families with free school meals during holidays.

The funds will pay for the Covid Winter Grant Scheme to support families over the season while the Holiday Activities and Food programme will be extended to cover the Easter, summer and Christmas breaks in 2021, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced. 

As part of the package, Healthy Start payments, which help expectant mothers and those with young children on low incomes and in receipt of benefits to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, are set to rise from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from April 2021. 

Making the announcement, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: "We want to make sure vulnerable people feel cared for throughout this difficult time and, above all, no one should go hungry or be unable to pay their bills this winter."

Other organisations have also helped out in Peterborough - in the October half-term, the Peterborough United Foundation put together and distributed more than 150 food parcels to children across the region. For December it is doubling its efforts, hoping to help 400 children.

The Health and Wellbeing Board meeting will be held virtually on December 7, at 1pm.

This report also highlighted some of the other work of the Peterborough Hub and Outbreak Management response to the pandemic, which comprises representatives from the public, private, voluntary, independent and faith sectors involved in the response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

  • Since it launched in April the hub has received over 2,100 contacts to date, and been supported by over 90 local voluntary and community organisations, parish councils, City Council services, Cross Keys Homes linking with other Registered Social Landlords, faith communities, Light Project Peterborough, the City Leadership Forum, and City College Peterborough.
  • The Hub is currently preparing for an anticipated increase in demand throughout Winter and over the Christmas period, especially in relation to financial management / debt advice, access to the food bank / food parcels, self-isolation / loneliness and accessing supplies, e.g. medication
  • The Hub will also respond to any local support needed for those identified as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) as well as managing applications to the hardship fund, which has been set up to support those low-income residents who have to self-isolate due to having been in contact with people who have tested positive for COVID-19. There is also a bank of volunteers who support the hub and local organisations