New £6.7m scheme to help Norfolk's disadvantaged to be launched
- Credit: Kate Wolstenholme
A new £6.7m scheme to help disadvantaged people in Norfolk will be launched this week - but anger still surrounds the axing of holiday school meal vouchers.
Conservative-run Norfolk County Council had provided free school meal vouchers over holidays since 2020, but did not do so over Easter.
Council leaders said that was because government funding allocation for free school meals had ended.
The council had got millions through the government's hardship fund, but leaders said that had to be spent more widely than just on children, so a new scheme would be set up.
John Fisher, cabinet member for children's services, confirmed that scheme would be launched on Friday, May 6.
After free school meal vouchers were ended, the council suggested families in need contact the Norfolk Assistance Scheme, or to get meals at events as part of the council's Big Norfolk Holiday Fun Programme.
That sparked criticism from opposition councillors and families.
They claimed it was not easy for all families to attend the Easter activity scheme and events were not suitable for all children, such as those with special educational needs.
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At a meeting of the county council's cabinet on Tuesday, May 3, it emerged the assistance scheme had received 750 applications for help in the two-week Easter holiday - 315 from children.
And there was criticism of the Big Norfolk Holiday events.
Sharon Blundell, Liberal Democrat councillor, said: "Some clubs did not provide food, parents couldn't get codes from their school, not all children could get food, clubs were not suitable for children with disabilities and special education needs, and young carers were unable to attend."
And Labour councillor Maxine Webb said she had heard from more than 70 families with children with special educational needs or disabilities who had not been able to attend.
Mr Fisher said the council had received "great initial feedback" about the scheme, but encouraged those with concerns to tell the authority.
He added: "There is a focus on ensuring all Big Norfolk Holiday Fun provision is inclusive and as accessible as possible, recognising some activities may not be accessible for some with certain needs due to the nature of the activity."