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Children in Lochaber and elsewhere in Scotland who are eligible for free school meals will continue to get them throughout the school summer holidays, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed yesterday (Tuesday).
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, Chair of the Education Committee, welcomed the announcement by the First Minister, which he said will enable the Council to continue provision of free school meals between the end of June and when the schools return in August.
Just minutes after Ms Sturgeon’s announcement of the extension of the free school meals scheme, Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed similar proposals for England, after a high profile campaign by Manchester United footballer, Marcus Rashford.
‘I am delighted that the Scottish Government has been able to provide such vital funding,’ commented Councillor Finlayson.
‘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 which haven’t already claimed free school meals and school clothing grants are being encouraged to do so as quickly as possible using the Council’s Apply Once online application form.
The Council’s Welfare Support Officers are on hand to complete the application form on behalf of families. They 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0800 090 1004. All calls from landlines and mobiles are free.
Around 4,500 Highland pupils have benefited from the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 funding package since lockdown began.
By the time the summer school holidays begin, 67,500 vouchers will have been issued across the Highlands, amounting to more than £1m.
Council Leader, Councillor Margaret Davidson, also welcomed the news and added: ‘We have 32,200 people in Highland who are furloughed which is equivalent to 27% 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.
‘We estimate that since March this year, we will have paid £1m for free school meals by the time pupils return to school in August. This is money being spent in our local supermarkets and food stores which also helps to support local businesses and the Highland economy.’