Free school meals to be funded during holidays until Easter 2022

More than 100,000 children are set to benefit from the grants. Credit: PA Images

Families of youngsters entitled to free school meals will receive food grants during school holidays from Christmas 2020, Northern Ireland Education Minister Peter Weir has said.

The scheme will run until Easter 2022 and is expected to cost up to around £40 million. More than 100,000 children will benefit.

Mr Weir said: "The School Holiday Food Grant scheme will help struggling families to provide food for their children and leave them with one less issue to worry about."

Grant payments will be made direct to families to cover all school holiday periods, including mid-term breaks (approximately 20 weeks) between Christmas 2020 and Easter 2022.

Peter Weir has said the scheme will run until Easter 2022 and is expected to cost up to around £40 million. Credit: Pacemaker

Pauline Leeson, chief executive of charity Children in Northern Ireland, said: "We are delighted that the Executive has taken this courageous decision and thank them for putting the needs of children and young people in receipt of free school meals first and foremost in their policy decision.

"This is something we have been seeking to get implemented for years.

"Children in Northern Ireland has been delivering holiday hunger projects since 2016 as well as campaigning and lobbying to raise the profile of this issue."

Sinn Féin assembly member Karen Mullan said holidays presented the greatest challenges for many low-income families and it was great news that this support will be in place.

She added: "Sinn Féin in government is committed to ensuring that the maximum support is in place for these families. No child should ever go hungry."