Meal Time Image by Flora AdobeStock_205292863

Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) will provide free meals to 5,700 children over the Easter period, after receiving further Government funding to support disadvantaged families.

Families will receive a £40 supermarket voucher for each eligible child or young person in their household. This includes £15 for each week of the holiday period, and a further £10 to factor in the additional financial pressures put on families during the recent cold months.

The support has been made possible after the Department for Work and Pensions announced an extension to its Winter Grant Scheme. This was introduced at the end of last year to support struggling families.

Some of these families will also get an extra boost over the Easter break. CBC will be offering free holiday activities to children and young people aged five and upwards who are eligible for free school meals.

Participants can get involved with virtual activities and holiday clubs, funded through the Government’s holiday activity and food programme, which provides enriching activities to disadvantaged children. Activities will also be offered during this year’s summer and Christmas holidays as well.

The council will be working directly with school and social workers to reach out to all eligible families directly with details of how to access both schemes.

Councillor Sue Clark, executive member for families, education and children, said:

“We’re delighted to be able support disadvantaged families again during the holiday period and the extra funding from the Department for Work and Pensions has allowed us to provide a little extra for these families at this difficult time.

“We are also delighted to be participating in the Government’s new holiday activity and food programme, which will offer a range of face-to-face and virtual activities to disadvantaged children who are less likely to access organised out of school activities due to financial pressures.

“This group are more likely to experience social isolation, so we are pleased to be part of this fantastic programme and I encourage all eligible children and young people to get involved.”

The majority of the Easter activities – including dance, yoga, poetry, music and circus skill workshops – are taking place online.

Sports activities are being provided by Leighton Linslade School Sport Partnership and Bedford Blues Foundation in Leighton Buzzard, Flitwick and Sandy. And holiday clubs are being run in Biggleswade, Houghton Regis, Leighton Buzzard and Shefford.

There are also self-guided spring trails and walks in Cranfield and Marston, Biggleswade and Sandy. Families will be given a checklist of things to look out for along the way by their local children’s centre.

CBC said it has reached out to all eligible families directly with details of how to access the free activities.

Guidance on applying for Free School Meals, including eligibility criteria, is available here.

Further information for Central Bedfordshire residents in financial hardship is available here.