‘Holiday hunger’ payments for children who are entitled to free school meals have been axed by The Department of Education (DE).
Families have been told they will not be receiving payments for the Easter school holidays, due to begin next week, after funding was pulled by the government.
Since July 2020, families of 96,000 children eligible for free school meals have received £27 per child each fortnight during school holidays.
The school holiday food grant was to help low-income families with the cost of feeding children.
But the department said it was ending the scheme “with great reluctance” due to new financial constraints.
The trade union NIPSA, which represents more than 8,000 members in the education sector, has condemned the decision.
Alan Law, its assistant secretary, described the timing of the announcement just days before the Easter holiday period as “abhorrent”.
“Department officials would have been aware for sometime that they would be unable to fund this but has cynically waited until now to make this announcement,” he said.
“A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens and this decision is an indictment on ours. How many more people are to be exposed to cruel and damaging decisions before change is demanded?
“The wickedness of politicians collecting massive salaries while some of their constituents will struggle with hunger is absolutely disgusting, all under the watch of our Tory secretary of state. Shame on them all.”
Gary Matthewson from Holy Family Primary and Nursery School said the move would “likely have a knock-on effect on foodbanks”.
“Families have become accustomed to the funding, they use it in terms of their financial planning in their daily meals and heating of homes,” he added.
He added that the decision to cut the funding was “unsurprising” and that this was “one of many significant cuts in the education service”.
“This is related to the fact that there is an insufficient education budget coming into Northern Ireland,” he said.
“This is the front edge of what will be an exceptionally difficult financial year and possibly beyond that.”
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