Free school meal vouchers and £150 grants for pensioners to be approved by Rotherham Council

Rotherham Council’s cabinet is set to approve a £1.4m extension to a supermarket voucher scheme for families with youngsters on free school meals, and also give pensioners who are struggling with the cost of living grants of up to £150.

Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 2:43 pm

A report to cabinet seeks approval to use £1,421,400 of government funding to provide families with youngsters on free school meals with £15 per week supermarket vouchers during the holidays.

If approved, vouchers will be provided up until the October half term 2022, including the upcoming May-June half term.

A further £250,000 will be used to help pensioners with the cost of living increase.

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"Given the resource that's available to us, it is a practical thing that we can do to target real, meaningful financial help at families that we know need it."

The cash comes from the government’s Household Support Fund, of which Rotherham Council has been allocated £2,489,029 for the six months from April until September 2022.

The money must be spent or committed by the end of September, and the grant is to be used to support households, particularly those including children and pensioners, who would otherwise struggle to buy food or pay essential utility bills or meet other essential living costs or housing costs.

The report, which was discussed during today’s (May 11) overview and scrutiny management board states that the remaining £817,000 is to be held in reserve, to allow the council to assess progress of the schemes.

When asked if the vouchers were adequate, Councillor Chris Read, leader of the council told the meeting they “don’t even begin to tackle that scale of [the] challenge”.

“Given the resource that’s available to us, it is a practical thing that we can do to target real, meaningful financial help at families that we know need it.”

Councillor Robert Elliott, Rotherham Democratic Party member for Greasbrough, asked if there was any way that the council could expand the scheme to include families on low income wages.

“Free school meals are usually applicable to people on benefits, and I know for a fact people on low income wages are just as desperate to feed their children,” Coun Elliott said.

Coun Read, in response, said: “We have the food bank network … and we’ve got the piece of work ongoing around social supermarkets.

“I don’t know how we can devise a fair system for expanding access to free school meals in a way that’s affordable to us.”