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Highland Council confirms free school meals provision will continue over summer

By Gregor White

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Provision for children receiving free school meals will continue over the summer holidays.
Provision for children receiving free school meals will continue over the summer holidays.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday that provision for children who normally receive free school meals will continue over the summer holiday period.

In Highland, P1-3 pupils entitled to school clothing grants and P4-S6 pupils who are eligible for free school meals have been receiving £15 per pupil, per week, which is paid fortnightly using a voucher system.

Councillor John Finlayson, chairman of the council's education committee said: "I very much welcome the announcement by the First Minister which will enable the council to continue provision of free school meals between the end of June and when the schools return in August.

"I am delighted that the Scottish Government has been able to provide such vital funding."

He added: "Given the financial pressures facing the council, this important income stream will help us to provide the much-needed support for the most vulnerable families in our communities, particularly at a time when so many are juggling a drop in their incomes and are already worrying about the costs of keeping their kids amused during the holidays."

All lower income families who haven’t already claimed free school meals and school clothing grants are being encouraged to do so using the council’s Apply Once online application form

Welfare support officers are on hand to complete the application form on behalf of families and can also carry out benefit checks to ensure that all eligible benefits are being claimed according to a household’s individual circumstances.

To access their help, email welfare.support@highland.gov.uk or call 0800 090 1004. All calls from landlines and mobiles are free.

The council says around 4500 Highland pupils have benefited from the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 funding package since lockdown began and that by the time the summer school holidays begin, 67,500 vouchers will have been issued across the Highlands, amounting to more than £1 million.

Council leader, Councillor Margaret Davidson, said: "We have 32,200 people in Highland who are furloughed, which is equivalent to 27 per cent of our workforce.

"This targeted ongoing financial support from the Scottish Government for free school meals will help our children and young people to access nutritional food during what is an expensive, and all too often, a worrying time for parents."

She added: "We estimate that since March this year, we will have paid £1 million for free school meals by the time pupils return to school in August.

"This is money is being spent in our local supermarkets and food stores, which also helps to support local businesses and the Highland economy."

Related article: Council details plans ahead of August return of schools

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