Lib Dems to push for more support for Hertfordshire's struggling families in holidays

The meeting will go ahead as planned on Tuesday, November 17

Thursday, 12th November 2020, 12:54 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th November 2020, 12:58 pm

An ‘extraordinary’ meeting to consider whether the county council should step-in to support families eligible for ‘free school meals’ over the school holidays is set to go-ahead next week – despite the announcement of greater government funding.

Nationally there have been calls to extend the ‘free school meal’ scheme during the school holidays, led by England footballer Marcus Rashford.

And more locally there have been calls by Liberal Democrat councillors for Hertfordshire County Council to set up its own local system to support families over the holidays until Easter 2021.

An ‘extraordinary’ meeting to consider whether the county council should step-in to support families eligible for ‘free school meals’ over the school holidays is set to go-ahead next week

The issue is due to be considered by an extraordinary meeting of the county council on Tuesday, November 17, following a request by Liberal Democrat councillors.

And leader of the Liberal Democrat group Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst says the meeting WILL go ahead, despite the announcement of greater government funding at the weekend. Read full story.According to the government the package of measures, announced on Sunday, will ‘ensure vulnerable households do not go hungry or without essential items’.

It includes a £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme, which the government says will allow councils to directly help the hardest-hit families and individuals – as well as provide food for children who need it over the holidays.

And it includes the pledge of a further £16million for food distribution charities.

The funding announcement has been welcomed by deputy county council leader Cllr Teresa Heritage, who is also executive member for children, young people and families.

But Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst says the funding is still “woefully short”.

And he says the request for the extraordinary meeting – the first called by Liberal Democrat Opposition in more than 10 years – will NOT be withdrawn.

“The bottom line is we need assurances from the county council that the money they will be receiving will provide that support for families in need so no child goes hungry,” he said.

“We provide free school meals during the school term – we are forgetting that for about a third of the year they are not in school.

At the meeting the Liberal Democrat group is expected to push for greater support for those eligible for free school meals in the county, in the form of meals or vouchers.

Their submitted motion – drafted before the government’s announcement – states: “In light of the government’s decision not to provide support for continued free school meals for those in receipt of these during the school holidays this Council commits to such provision through its facilities with or without the support of community groups up to and including the Easter holidays in 2021.”

But the wording of the motion may be amended to take account of recent developments.

Meanwhile Conservative Cllr Teresa Heritage, who is also executive member for children, young people and families has welcomed the funding announcement by the government.

In a statement issued by the county council, Cllr Heritage said: “We welcome the government’s announcement of additional funding to support the most vulnerable in our communities through the new winter grant scheme.

“As a county council we are committed to supporting families across Hertfordshire, to ensure every child in the county has the best possible start in life.

“Over recent months we have provided vital support to those suffering from financial pressure as a result of the pandemic and are pleased this additional funding will help the hardest-hit families and individuals, as well as provide food for children who need it over the holidays.

“Ultimately, no child in Hertfordshire should be going hungry and we are working hard to ensure this is the case.”

HertsHelp can be contacted on [email protected] or on 0300 123 4044.