THOUSANDS of struggling families can get up to £300 in vouchers to help pay for food this Christmas.
If someone in your household is eligible for free school meals you could be entitled to the vouchers.
The money is being dished out as part of the government's Household Support Fund (HSF).
Councils have been given a slice of the new funding on offer, which will be given out to struggling households to help them with the rising cost of bills and food.
Some of the vouchers are redeemable at supermarkets, and some can be exchanged for cash at your closest Post Office.
Depending on your circumstances, households could receive vouchers worth up to £300 – as is the case in York.
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They are available to spend over Christmas to help towards costs.
The criteria for free school meals varies based on location and financial situation.
Free school meals were first made available in the 1940s, and it is estimated that one in five pupils qualify for them.
Pupils in England can get free school meals during term time up to the end of Year Two.
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However, older pupils are only eligible if their parents receive certain benefits.
You can check your council's specific requirements on its website.
We've rounded up some of the councils offering vouchers over the Christmas holiday for children on free school meals.
Children in York who receive free school meals in term time could get between £200 and £300 over the holiday.
Depending on your circumstances you may be eligible for the cash help if you or a family member are in receipt of:
- Benefits-based free school meals
- Housing Benefit
- Council Tax Support, but not Universal Credit or any other income-based support
- Disability living allowance
Other households who are struggling to meet their living costs may be eligible, see our article for the full requirements.
York City Council started writing to over 3,000 potentially eligible families, inviting them to apply directly between Monday, December 5 and Thursday, January 5.
A full list of what you'll need to help with your application is detailed by the council.
Shropshire Council will also continue to offer children in receipt of benefits-related free school meals £15 in supermarket vouchers each week of holiday over the Christmas period.
Households will not need to apply for these vouchers as they'll be sent out by the Council automatically.
A further 5,250 residents eligible for the HSF who live in Shropshire could get a one-off payment worth £180 before Christmas.
For more information on the payment see our story here.
Essex County Council has revealed that free meal vouchers will be available to around 50,000 schoolchildren over the Christmas period.
Vouchers will be sent to the parents of eligible children via their school or early years setting before the holidays start on December 21.
Each voucher is worth £15 a week per child and can be used to buy food in most supermarkets.
To be eligible for the free cash vouchers, households must contain children who are either:
- aged four to 19 who are registered for free meals with their school or college.
- children aged two, three and four who are entitled to pupil premium or free entitlement funding supplement.
Vouchers will be sent to eligible households automatically and parents won't need to apply.
Portsmouth Council has issued thousands of vouchers to parents whose children qualify for benefits-related free school meals this week.
They are redeemable at supermarkets this Christmas and all families should receive their voucher by the end of the term.
The £70 vouchers will be sent to all households with school children between reception age and year 11.
Families with children in early years childcare, who qualified for two-year-old childcare funding or early years pupil premium and were attending a childcare setting on October 7 will also get the voucher.
Households will receive £70 for each eligible child.
Students aged 16–19 attending City of Portsmouth College, from low-income families, will receive a payment of £70 direct from the college.
Portsmouth council is yet to confirm which supermarkets will accept the vouchers – we'll update this story when we hear back.
Cash-strapped households in the Nottinghamshire City Council catchment area can get help to cover the costs of food and energy bills this winter.
Households can get £90 for each child claiming free school meals – £30 towards food costs and £60 for covering energy costs.
If the household has more than one child eligible for free school meals, the household will receive an additional £30 per child towards their food costs.
For example, two eligible children can get £120 in support.
Three children could get £150, while households with four children could get £180 in support.
But if you think you may be eligible, you only have until January 31, 2023 to apply.
Eligible households can apply for the payment from now by completing an online form on the council's website.
If anyone is unable to complete the form, they should contact the council’s customer service team.
Middlesbrough Council has issued 9,000 vouchers to parents whose children qualify for free school meals.
They are redeemable at supermarkets this Christmas or can be used towards energy costs.
The council is now accepting applications from families with children under the age of five, where another child in the house is eligible for income related-free school meals.
You can apply for the vouchers through the council website.
Residents in the county can also get the vouchers if their child goes to a school outside Middlesbrough but live in the county.
The child must be eligible for free school meals.
You can also get the vouchers if you're in receipt of a council tax reduction due to low income.
If your application is approved, you'll get a voucher worth £60 per child.
The type of voucher you receive will depend on your circumstances, check the council website to see what you could get.
The supermarket vouchers can be redeemed at the following: Asda, Aldi, B&M, Farmfoods, Iceland, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose.
Who can get free school meals?
Children whose parents claim certain benefits are eligible to receive free school meals:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- The guaranteed element of Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
- Working Tax Credit run-on – paid for four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
- Universal Credit
If your child receives free school meals during term time then they should be entitled to vouchers during the holidays also.
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However, check with your local council as this can change between areas.
You can apply for free school meals through your local authority's website.
Do you have a money problem that needs sorting? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]
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