Thousands of families will be offered supermarket vouchers ahead of the Christmas and February half-term school holidays, as part of a scheme facilitated by Swindon Borough Council.

The Council was awarded £624,935 by the Government to support families with the cost of food and fuel during the next two school holidays.

Around 7,000 children in Swindon will be eligible for the COVID Winter Grant Scheme over the next few months. The majority of these will be children who are entitled to free school meals during term time. Children in receipt of two-year-old funding and those eligible for the pupil premium aged three and four will also benefit from the support.

Vulnerable children under the age of two may be entitled to the funding, which can be applied for via a social worker, health visitor or the Early Help family service. The Council will be able to use the same system to claim vouchers through the system to send direct to these families, through social care and Early Help services.

Eligible families will receive a £15 voucher per week, per child. Vouchers worth £30 will be provided to parents or guardians for each eligible child to cover the two-week Christmas school holiday, followed by an additional £15 voucher per child ahead of February half-term.

Over the coming weeks, the Council will be working closely with early years settings, schools and colleges to ensure the efficient and timely delivery of the vouchers to vulnerable children and families across Swindon.

Parents or carers of eligible children do not need to apply to receive the vouchers. Instead, vouchers will be distributed via School Vouchers, a website which allows schools to order supermarket vouchers for local families.

Education settings select the pupils eligible to receive the vouchers, as well as a range of local supermarkets the vouchers can be used at. The voucher is then sent to the parents or carers of those children via text or email, to be used at the range of stores selected by the school.

With no cost to either the Council or schools, this method of distribution ensures the maximum funding reaches families. It also offers families a choice of preferred supermarket and removes the requirement for families to apply themselves.

Any residents who do not currently receive free school meals but believe they are eligible, should visit the Council’s website for more information and to apply.
The latest scheme comes after the Council used its Emergency Assistance Fund to help vulnerable children in food poverty, who were eligible for free school meals, over the October half-term holidays.

Councillor Russell Holland, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Commercialisation, Education and Skills, said: “I am delighted that the Government has provided this much-needed funding to provide support for children who are eligible for Free School Meals over the Christmas period. This builds on the support that the Council and other voluntary organisations provided during the October half term. I would like to particularly thank all of the schools and early years settings for working closely with the Council to help to make sure all eligible parents can access the vouchers.

“This year has been very difficult and the Council has been able to provide help to thousands of people and businesses across Swindon. I would also like to thank the thousands of people who have stepped to help others around them. There have been meals delivered, prescriptions and shopping collected as well as numerous other acts of kindness.”