Applications still open for free school meal vouchers for Christmas holidays


Bath & North East Somerset Council has received more than 2,000 applications for its free school meal vouchers and more families are being urged to apply if they haven’t already.

More than 1,700 applications have already been processed since the scheme launched on December 8 to provide supermarket vouchers worth £40 to more than 4,000 eligible children in Bath and North East Somerset.

The council is encouraging any families who haven’t yet applied to do so as soon as possible, or before the final deadline of January 4.

The electronic vouchers can be spent in a range of supermarkets for the two weeks of the holidays and are available to the families of pupils entitled to benefit-related free school meals. They are part of a wide range of support for vulnerable families during the Christmas period.

Early years settings have also been contacted by the council this week to ensure parents know they may be eligible, as the vouchers are also available for parents of pupils under school age who are in nursery or pre-school settings. This applies to parents who receive free childcare for two-year-olds, where benefits are such that they would have been entitled to free school meals.

Parents can apply for vouchers online or for parents who do not have access to the internet, applications can be made by calling 01225 477777 and select option 4.

Councillor Kevin Guy, cabinet member for Children’s Services, said: “I’m delighted that we’ve already been able to process more than 1,700 applications and issue more than 3,000 vouchers to parents and carers, but we would love more families to apply if they haven’t already. These vouchers are going to make a difference to so many families who will be able to enjoy Christmas without worrying how they are going to put food in front of their children. This includes families with children in early years settings as well as school-aged children. We’ll be continuing to process applications during the holidays, so don’t delay in getting in touch with us if you think you may be eligible.”

The council has also committed to funding free school meals vouchers for February half term and is looking to provide support during the Easter holidays if funding is available.

There are currently more than 4,000 children in Bath and North East Somerset who receive benefit-related free school meals and the scheme will cost £250k covering Christmas and February half-term. It is funded from the Government’s Covid Winter Grant Scheme.

3SG and St John’s Foundation have already allocated £55,000 from a local fundraising appeal to community-led food projects serving communities of high-need across Bath and North East Somerset.

There is also community support for families over Christmas:

  • Anyone finding it hard to stay afloat on their food budget can contact their nearest FOOD Club or Pantry for an affordable way to supplement a weekly shop. Details can be found on the BANES Foodfinder at www.banesfoodfinder.org/listing/food-clubs-pantries

  • Details of food banks across BANES are also on that link and they can tell you how to access a voucher to meet more urgent need.

  • Anyone in need of support around food, money, debt, mental health, housing or employment is encouraged to contact the Community Wellbeing Hub, by calling 0300 257 0050 or email at BATHNES.thehub@virgincare.co.uk, where you will be connected to a wide range of support under one roof.

  • Alternatively, the Welfare Support team can offer short-term, financial crisis support and are contactable on 01225 477 277 or email at welfare_support@bathnes.gov.uk.

  • A searchable and comprehensive online listing of a wide range of community support across BANES can be found on the One Big Database at www.bathnes1bd.org.uk

  • Many community groups and organisations across B&NES are working hard to source and pack Christmas hampers for families they work with and know will welcome that additional support at this time of year.

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