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Caritas Westminster responds to Government’s extension of free school meals over summer

Caritas Westminster has responded to the announcement that the Government’s free school meal voucher scheme will be extended to cover the summer holidays.

Anna Gavurin, Coordinator of Caritas Food Collective at Caritas Westminster, said:

Caritas Westminster welcomes today’s announcement that the Government’s free school meal voucher scheme will be extended to cover the summer holidays. With our partners in the Caritas Social Action Network, Caritas Westminster has been calling for this change, recently writing to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MPasking him to extend the free school meals voucher scheme over the summer.

Unfortunately, holiday hunger is not a new problem. Caritas Westminster has been working to address holiday hunger over the last yearby helping parishes and schools to set up their own holiday food provision programmes. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the need is only going to get worse, as many parents lose work and budgets are stretched with children at home all day.

Many parishes in the Diocese of Westminster have shared with us examples of the challenging situations families are facing. We have launched the Caritas Emergency Supermarket Voucher Scheme to help meet this need, with the scheme already providing food for thousands of people.

In the last few weeks, we have seen many schools setting up their own food banks and food parcel delivery schemes to support families who are struggling. Even with free school meal vouchers available, schools are seeing a level of need so great that they have been forced to provide direct food relief themselves.

As the Government furlough scheme comes to an end and unemployment is expected to rise, we expect to see many more needing food relief and other forms of support. Therefore, whilst we welcome the Government’s U-turn on free school meals over the summer, we encourage them to recognise that there is more needed to prevent child poverty in this country reaching record levels. 

Caritas Westminster, and parishes and schools in the Diocese of Westminster, will continue doing all we can to meet this need, and we hope the Government will do the same.

If you would like to support the work of Caritas Westminster, you can donate at bit.ly/caritasdonations.

If your parish or school needs support to help those in your community, please contact caritaswestminster@rcdow.org.uk.