Surrey children on free school meals will receive food vouchers over Christmas in what one councillor described as “an absolute lifeline” for some families.
The scheme, which will give families a £30 voucher per child, was confirmed by the council’s cabinet member for education and learning on Tuesday, November 29.
Councillor Clare Curran (Conservative, Bookham and Fetcham West) said the vouchers would be issued to children who were eligible for free school meals to be used over the holiday, and that the “wheels were already in motion” on the scheme.
She said: “I know they are an absolute lifeline for very many families.”
The vouchers can be spent in certain supermarkets, and with some conditions in place on what they can be spent on – covering food and other essential items only.
England footballer Marcus Rashford piled pressure on the government during the coronavirus pandemic, forcing a u-turn on the policy not to provide help for struggling families during the school holiday.
The authority’s cabinet meeting also heard about measures being taken to help residents with the cost of living crisis, including a directory sent out to residents to signpost support organisations and funding available.
Meeting documents said: “Whilst the majority of Surrey residents are not in crisis situations at the moment, many are beginning to make cutbacks.
“It is also important to note that there are some residents in crisis already before the full effects of inflation and the winter months are felt.”
Council statistics showed that more than 500 new clients had registered with Surrey Citizens Advice between April and June with more than 1,600 issues being raised particularly around benefits, debt, housing and foodbanks.
Particular groups in the county accounted for the increased demand, with 66 per cent of claimants identifying as having a disability or long-term health condition, and two-thirds of clients identifying as female.
Figures also showed a 300 per cent increase in demand at some foodbanks across Surrey.
Council leader Tim Oliver (Conservative, Weybridge) said the authority would continue to lobby government over energy prices and support for households after April, when the energy price guarantee ends.
Cllr Oliver said: “I hope that residents see what this council is doing, and see that we are genuinely trying to do whatever we can, in whatever way we can, to help support them through what I know will be a difficult period for many people.”