Cllr Bob Webb
Cllr Bob Webb

Concerns have been expressed about the extent to which some children will get support to eat in school holidays, as the council launches a new, less generous application-based support system – part way through a school holiday.

Previously the council used Government funding during the Covid pandemic to issue free school meal vouchers in school holidays, vouchers that could be used in supermarkets to pay for food.

But that scheme covering all children entitled to free school meals has ended and been replaced by a new system, launched the day before last week’s two bank holidays, requiring that families must now apply for support, rather than being automatically eligible.


Labour’s spokesperson for education, children and young people, Cllr Bob Webb said:

“Unfortunately the change to the way support is being provided for holiday hunger will mean more children go hungry in school holidays.  However much the council might say the support is available to those who need it, this new scheme is about cutting its cloth according to what money it says it can provide, so in effect rationing support.

“Moving from a simple system of eligibility for support based on eligibility for free school meals to one of needing to apply will immediately remove a huge number of people from receiving such support.  Having been involved in a recent council review of holiday hunger, I’m well aware of the impact of rolling back support for many of those families most in need. I’m also concerned about the council’s continued digital exclusion of many York residents through its digital only policy, something that will also leave many families unable to benefit from help they should be getting.

“In addition, launching this new scheme the day before council services close for two bank holidays during the half term holidays suggests, disappointingly, that eligible families have not been a priority in the council’s thinking”.


The council says its new system will involve ‘support workers’ issuing food and energy vouchers based on need, meaning families will need to be in contact with one of the following local agencies:

City of York Council; York Energy Advice; Citizens Advice York; local Housing Associations.


In addition, the Government-funded Holiday Activities and Food Programme (HAF) still exists, but the council’s recent review of holiday hunger found it achieved mixed results, with only 20% of eligible children and young people attending sessions, and little on offer for those aged 14 or above.

Cllr Webb said while the programme has many flaws, lessons need to be learned quickly if it is to benefit more children and young people in a little over a month’s time, when school summer holidays get underway.

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