A COUNCIL serving an area in which one in 11 pupils claim free school meals has said it is confident Government funding in the wake of Marcus Rashford’s child food poverty campaign will be sufficient to help low-income families struggling due to Covid-19 this winter.

While the cost of providing free school meals to eligible children for two weeks across the country is about £40m, North Yorkshire County Council leader Councillor Carl Les said the county’s share of the £170m grant scheme to cover from the beginning of December until the end of March would meet the needs of those hardest hit.

Amid mounting concerns over the Government properly reimbursing local authorities for their pandemic related costs, a full meeting of the authority also saw its leaders questioned over how it would support vulnerable children who are forced to isolate at home during term time.

Councillor Bryn Griffiths, the Liberal Democrat member for Stokesley, said: “I am aware that people could drop through the gaps in the system and this is one gap that I think needs plugging.”

The authority’s leader, Councillor Carl Les, said the funding councils received had been determined by its population and levels of deprivation and he believed the £1.435m grant North Yorkshire would be given would cover its needs.

He said the level of funding “seemed right” when compared to neighbouring councils such as Durham, which will get £1.872m, East Riding at £825,000 and Darlington at £364,000.

Following concerns that cash-strapped councils may use part of the funding for other purposes, Cllr Les added the grant had been ring-fenced to cover food and essential utilities.

He added: “It’s not the only support on offer to vulnerable families. It’s part of a wider winter support package for families with children. The Department of Education has expanded its holiday activities and food programme, the Department for Health and Social Care has increased the value of its Health Start programme vouchers and the Department for Food and Rural Affairs will be providing further funding for local charities.” Cllr Les said the council was also supporting food banks and support networks, such as Citizens Advice.

When the Government announced the Covid Winter Grant Scheme last week it stated as councils understand which groups need support, and are best placed to ensure appropriate holiday support is provided, they would distribute the funds, rather than schools.

Cllr Les said its children’s services department would coordinate the distribution using its direct links to education, policing the NHS and care workers.

Councillor Patrick Mulligan, the council’s executive member for education, said the authority would be monitoring schools and asking them to make sure any children in isolation get the vouchers.