COUNCILLORS will be asked to allocate £300,000 to provide free school meals for Blaenau Gwent youngsters during the summer holidays.

This money would come out of the council’s general reserves pot.

At their full council meeting on Thursday, July 20, Blaenau Gwent councillors will also be asked to agree to build in £700,000 in future council budgets to provide free school meals (FSM) in future holiday periods.

At the end of June the Welsh Government told councils across Wales that it would be stopping the support the payment of FSM holiday payments.

Funding for free school meals during holidays by the Welsh Government started in March 2020 as part of the Covid-19 pandemic response.

The government has said it doesn’t have money to support the scheme any more.

Acting director of education Luisa Munro-Morris said: “The Welsh Government decision to stop this payment will create hardship on existing vulnerable families at a time of continuing pressure on household budgets due to the cost of living crisis.

“The ever-increasing cost of living crisis has become a significant burden on our communities, especially those from low-income backgrounds.

“Rising prices has placed a severe strain on households finances.

“Vulnerable families have indicated that the funding of £19.50 per child, per week has been invaluable in supporting them to purchase food items during school holidays and in the current cost of living crisis.

“Due to the late notification, and the impact that this will have, it is proposed that the council provides a one-off payment of £19.50 per week, per child, to eligible families for the school holiday period.”

This would start on Friday, July 21 and continue until Thursday, August 31.

Ms Munro-Morris explains that by agreeing this measure the council would be providing “immediate support for vulnerable families” and also providing an advance warning that there will be no more direct payment for future holiday periods.

This is unless councillors agree to the extra £700,000 to cover those holiday periods or the Welsh Government change their minds on the policy.

The report says that 2,626 children in Blaenau Gwent claimed the direct payment during the May 2023 half-term.