66,000+ children received cash in lieu of free school meals during the pandemic

Poverty School canteen table
Image by Katrina_S from Pixabay


As the severity of Covid 19 became apparent, it was clear that schools in were set to shut for many weeks. Our attention immediately turned to what the Welsh Government could do to support families trapped in poverty through this period. With previous Bevan Foundation research highlighting that many families struggled to meet the cost of feeding their children over the 6 weeks of the summer holidays, we were concerned that the closure of schools for any prolonged period was likely to present an even greater challenge.


Even before Wales entered lockdown we were calling on the Welsh Government to provide families with a Free School Meals Allowance – an emergency cash payment equal to the cost of their Free School Meal. We published numerous briefings and worked with colleagues at the Wales Anti-Poverty Coalition to demonstrate why providing cash directly to families would be a more effective solution that providing families with vouchers or food hampers.


In response to our work, the Welsh Government decided against developing a national voucher scheme along similar lines to what the UK Government were developing in England. Instead, they provided local authorities with money so that they could make cash payments worth £19.50 per child directly to families every week. In total 17 out of the 22 local authorities developed a cash first approach, helping ensure that over 66,000 children and their parents had access to food throughout lockdown.


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