AN ADDITIONAL 2,150 Primary school children in years 5 and 6 are set to receive free school meals in Neath Port Talbot.
Children will automatically receive the free school meals directly through their school at the start of term. Parents do not have to apply.
However, parents that receive benefits that entitle their child to a free school meal are still being encouraged to register for a free school meal if they haven’t already done so as they may be entitled to a SEG – School Essentials Grant.
The scheme is a part of the Welsh Government’s commitment for every primary school pupil in Wales to receive a free school meal by 2024.
The rollout in Neath Port Talbot started with reception children in September 2022 and Years 1 and 2 in November 2022 and Years 3 and 4 in April 2023 so this rollout to Years 5 and 6 means Neath Port Talbot is a year ahead of the Welsh Government deadline.
The provision of free school meals for all primary school chlldren follows on from other work has being doing – for example, Neath Port Talbot Council set aside £2 million for a hardship relief scheme when setting its 2022/23 budget.
The scheme, being delivered in partnership with Warm Wales, was launched at the end of 2022 and will run for another 18 months.
Already hundreds of residents have benefited from the arrangements, alleviating pressure on the growing number of households experiencing hardship due to the cost of living crisis.
Also over the summer holiday period, an unprecedented number of NPT schools are participating in the Summer of Fun programme which offers a wide range of fun activities for those children and young people taking part, lifting pressure off families but also providing free food.
Across the wider Summer of Fun programme every child and young person registered for the programme will also receive a food box to the value of £30.
These are just some of the initiatives in place to relieve hardship across the county borough.
Neath Port Talbot Council’s Chief Executive Karen Jones co-chairs a poverty prevention and cost of living partnership group with the Director of the Neath Port Talbot Council of Voluntary Services to co-ordinate a wide range of support available to those who need it.
The partnership is currently focused on making sure residents know what is available over the summer period and how to access the help and support available.
The council is now also planning to reach out early to those most vulnerable in advance of next winter.
Councillor Nia Jenkins, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Early Years, said: “The Welsh Government’s Free School Meal pledge is more important than ever during the current cost of living crisis.
“I am pleased that we are able to continue the rollout ahead of schedule, and I am sure this announcement will be welcomed by many parents and carers who are struggling at the moment.