Many are calling for government to give supermarket vouchers for half term and holidays to all families with children who get Free School Meals in term time. I don’t agree: we need a more bespoke, more community-led, and where needed, more generous approach than vouchers.
I am glad to say that Wiltshire council is adopting this better approach, using funding given for exactly this purpose by government. If you are in receipt of FSM and are struggling to make ends meet this half term, you can call the Wiltshire Wellbeing Hub on 0300 003 4576.
They will talk you through your circumstances and offer help that suits you. They might put cash straight into your bank account or they might signpost you to a local pub or charity offering free food. If you need it, they’ll link you with specialist support.
For years, Labour - and almost everyone who works with families in disadvantage, as I have - argued against vouchers. For people who just need more money, they are stigmatising. For those in complicated circumstances they don’t come with any human contact or additional support.
We have to do better than this, and I’m glad Wiltshire, and many other councils across the country, with the help of central government and local communities, are getting this right.