Highland Pupils To Receive Free School Meals During Summer Holidays
18th June 2020
Following the First Minister's announcement on Tuesday, 16 June 2020, eligible school pupils are to receive free school meals during the summer break to help tackle food poverty.
In Highland, P1-3 pupils entitled to school clothing grants and P4-S6 pupils who are eligible for free school meals have been receiving £15 per pupil, per week, which is paid fortnightly using a voucher system.
Councillor John Finlayson, Chair of the Education Committee said: "I very much welcome the announcement by the First Minister which will enable the Council to continue provision of free school meals between the end of June and when the schools return in August. I am delighted that the Scottish Government has been able to provide such vital funding.
He added, “Given the financial pressures facing the Council, this important income stream will help us to provide the much needed support for the most vulnerable families in our communities, particularly at a time when so many are juggling a drop in their incomes and are already worrying about the costs of keeping their kids amused during the holidays."
All lower income families who haven’t already claimed free school meals and school clothing grants are being encouraged to do so as quickly as possible using the Council’s Apply Once online application form which can be accessed at https://www.highland.gov.uk/a_to_z/service/561/apply_once_-_find_out_what_benefits_youre_entitled_to
The Council’s Welfare Support Officers are on hand to complete the application form on behalf of families. They also carry out benefit checks to ensure that all eligible benefits are being claimed according to a household’s individual circumstances. To access their help, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0800 090 1004. All calls from landlines and mobiles are free.
Around 4,500 Highland pupils have benefitted from the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 funding package since lockdown began. By the time the summer school holidays begin, 67,500 vouchers will have been issued across the Highlands, amounting to more than £1m.
Council Leader, Councillor Margaret Davidson, also welcomed the news and said: “We have 32,200 people in Highland who are furloughed which is equivalent to 27% of our workforce. This targeted ongoing financial support from the Scottish Government for free school meals will help our children and young people to access nutritional food during what is an expensive, and all too often, a worrying time for parents.”
She added, “We estimate that since March this year, we will have paid £1m for free school meals by the time pupils return to school in August. This is money being spent in our local supermarkets and food stores which also helps to support local businesses and the Highland economy.”
The Highland Council is updating parents and carers of its position on early learning and childcare (ELC). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Scottish Government removed the statutory requirement for Local Authorities to deliver 1140 hours of ELC from August.
Following on from the recent publication of Highland Council's Supporting Economic Recovery in Highland - A Guide for Businesses - the Council is announcing relaxation of some controls that will assist tourist accommodation providers have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. In recognition of this where there are specific planning and licensing controls in relation to occupancy, for example: a restriction on the occupancy of any caravan for a continuous 12 month period; or where conditions restrict occupancy for specific periods of time, ...these will be relaxed by the Council up to and including April 2021.
The Caithness Committee met virtual today for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic and it's agenda focused on the actions taken by the Council and the third sector to deal with the effects of Coronavirus in Caithness. The Executive Chief Officer for Education and Learning, Paul Senior, gave members an update on the plans and preparations underway to prepare for the return of pupils and staff to Caithness schools in August.
Margaret Davidson, the Leader of the Highland Council has given her strong support to the efforts of the Scottish Government to obtain greater fiscal flexibility from the UK Government. The Scottish Government have sought flexibility to offset capital underspend against resource expenditure, more flexibility over resource borrowing and greater flexibility over the use of the reserve for capital.
The Highland Council is planning to re-open play areas across the region throughout summer. Advice was provided by the Scottish Government on 28 June as to the safety measures that should be applied.
The Highland Council was one of the first local authorities in Scotland recognised to develop a Schools Digital Learning Hub, which provides a resource for staff, parents and pupils to support home learning. Prior to Covid-19, we had an estate of 27,000 Chromebooks that were already a part of our ICT in Learning Strategy.
Earlier today (Wednesday 1 July 2020) members of The Highland Council's Economy and Infrastructure Committee had the opportunity to discuss (by video conference) progress made with the Corran Ferry Project which is reviewing the options for securing a replacement ferry and considering the way forward for the future operation and management of the service. The Corran ferry service has reached a critical point and strategic decisions need to be made.
As Scotland prepares for the easing of lockdown and the re-opening of the tourism and hospitality sector, The Highland Council's Environmental Health are advising holiday accommodation providers to make sure their private water supplies are safe to drink. A large number of self-catering and tourist accommodation in the Highlands are served by private water supplies and with these being closed during the lockdown period, the water supply system may not have been maintained and could create a risk to the quality and safety of the drinking water.
Lesley, who previously worked for Hackney Local Authority in London, expressed how much she has enjoyed working for the Council. Lelsey started with highland council on 13 August 2019.
Following Scottish Government guidance on returning to construction sites across Scotland, works will be restarting on the EES:ABS scheme across the Highlands. In line with the guidance, contractors will be undertaking phased restarts and adhering to social distancing to allow workers to return to construction sites gradually while using measures such as hand hygiene.