Easter holiday food voucher scheme approved

By Siobhan Fletcher   |   Reporter   |
Saturday 9th April 2022 11:39 am
@siobhanfletcher
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Tynwald unanimously passed legislation to allow children who receive free school meals to continue to do so over the Easter holidays.

The decision was made at an extraordinary sitting of Tynwald.

The Easter Holiday Food Voucher Scheme 2022 will offer assistance to more than 2,100 children and young people, who qualify for free school meals.

It is hoped it will ‘ensure that no child goes hungry over this holiday period’.

The request to bring the meal voucher scheme back came from the education minister and was one of the measures announced earlier this week to try and help ease the impact of the cost of living crisis as inflationary pressures start to hit families’ pockets.

Eligible parents and carers will receive two weekly vouchers that can be spent at any Shoprite store before the end of the two week break.

The combined value will be £23.50 for a primary age pupil, and £29.50 for those at secondary school or University College Isle of Man (UCM).

Julie Edge MHK, Minister for the Department of Education, Sport and Culture, said: ‘We understand many families are facing significant financial pressures and hope this scheme can help those that need it most.

‘This is especially important due to the considerable impact of rising fuel costs and the rate of inflation which has resulted in an increased cost of living.’

The vouchers will be received in the post and can be used to buy groceries.

They cannot be used for alcohol, lottery tickets, tobacco or exchanged for cash.

The scheme was seconded by Douglas South MHK Claire Christian who praised government for ‘moving fast’ on the issue.

Whilst the measure passed unanimously, several MHKs did voice concern that a long term approach to the problem had not already been devised in time for the Easter holidays.

Douglas Central MHK Ann Corlett backed the plan for the vouchers but said she was ‘far from convinced’ they are the right approach.

She said: ‘They were a short term fix, but here we are using the same short term fix.’

Mrs Corlett also stated that no consideration is given to poorer families who live just above the benefit threshold, saying that ‘they are left out altogether’.

Arbory, Castletown and Malew MHK Jason Moorhouse echoed these sentiments.

Rushen MHK Michelle Haywood questioned the lack of forward planning, and argued that something more permanent needs to be in place for TT week and the summer holidays.

Dr Haywood also highlighted the amount of kids sent to work from home due to recent Covid outbreaks and staffing pressures in schools, arguing that those eligible for free school meals go without their ‘one decent meal’ in the day as a result of these measures.

She asked the education minister what the department would do about this.

Ms Edge stated that the department was looking into this issue.

The education minister also stated that the Cabinet Office will be coming forward with a holiday hunger scheme before the summer holidays, and that the department is working with Treasury in terms of forward planning for these measures.