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Kent County Council launches helpline for free school meal vouchers following Marcus Rashford campaign

Kent County Council is offering food vouchers to children eligible for free school meals this half term.

The decision comes after MPs voted not to extend the government scheme on Wednesday.

KCC have set up a helpline
KCC have set up a helpline

A dedicated helpline has been set up and is now open to low-income families who will recieve one voucher of £15 per child.

The decision comes after businesses and charities across the county offered support to families in need. On Friday evening, Medway Council announced it was working with Citizen's Advice Medway to offer the 6,000 children free meals this week.

Leader of the council Roger Gough said: “Kent County Council and our partners in district and borough councils have already helped thousands of Kent residents, including families with school-aged children, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At the weekend, with the half-term holiday approaching, I reminded residents about the help the Kent Together helpline and webpage offer and urged anyone who was struggling to contact us.

“We have now taken that offer of help a step further, setting up a dedicated helpline families can call to apply for vouchers for Free School Meals to be used in a local supermarket during the school holidays. This dedicated helpline will streamline and speed up the process so we can get urgent help to those that need it.

“This support for families in need has always been in place. I hope, though, that this helpline will enable people who need urgent help to get it, and to get it quickly.

Cllr Roger Gough
Cllr Roger Gough

“Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we support the most vulnerable within our community. I hope that this service will quickly provide families with the help they need and ensure that no child in Kent is left to go hungry.”

However, Thanet District Council leader Cllr Rick Everitt believes the policies do not go far enough, and is urging KCC to join calls for the government to create a national free-meals scheme in time for Christmas.

In a letter written to Cllr Gough, the Labour politician said: "Whatever has been possible this week, we will face a similar problem at Christmas and into 2021 so a long-term solution is required.

"It should be morally unacceptable to all of us that children are left hungry at any time.

"The sums of money involved are significant to local government, but they are small in terms of the amount committed nationally to support the economy.

Thanet District Council leader Rick Everitt
Thanet District Council leader Rick Everitt

"Thanet District Council has particular concerns about this matter. We have the highest number of pupils receiving free school meals of any Kent district, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of all pupils.

"Based on the January roll there are 4,612 pupils affected in Thanet or 22.7% of the total. However, we both know that there will be many more families in need now as a result of Covid-19."

Anyone eligible for free school meals who needs extra financial support to help feed their children can click here or call the dedicated helpline on 03000 41 24 24. You have until next Monday 2nd November 5pm to apply.

Meanwhile, the KentTogether helpline remains open for any other Kent resident who needs support with food, collection of medication and prescriptions and other urgent needs during the pandemic, 24 hours a day. You can get help by visiting www.kent.gov.uk/kenttogether or calling 03000 41 92 92.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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