The government is extending the School Meals Programme over the summer holidays due to Covid-19.
The Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, announced that over €118 million in funding has been provided for the expansion of the meals programme, along with the school clothing allowance, to reassure parents and school authorities that supports will remain in place during the school recess.
Funding under the School Meals Programme is normally confined to the academic year, but an exception has been made this summer in recognition of Covid-19.
The extension will ensure that participating primary and secondary schools can provide food parcels benefiting thousands of pupils over the summer months.
The School Meals Programme provides funding for the provision of food to around 1,500 schools and organisations and benefits 230,000 children. The Government is providing over €65 million in funding to deliver the programme this year.
The programme will also be made available to schools participating in the Department of Education’s School-based Summer Education Programme to provide a breakfast and lunch for those attending. That scheme focuses on pupils with complex special educational needs and those at risk of educational disadvantage.
"I am pleased to extend the funding for the School Meals Programme to schools throughout the summer holidays. This will ensure that thousands of children from every county will continue to receive a healthy and nutritious meal every day," Ms Humphreys said.
"The School Meals programme is a vital support for children and their parents and it is a scheme that I support wholeheartedly and indeed want to see expand.
"Extending the funding for the School Meals Programme during school closures over the past 12 months has provided certainty and security to the pupils, during what I know has been a very difficult time during a very unusual school year."
She said her department is currently contacting the schools involved with the programme to let them know it can continue over the summer holidays.
Applications have also opened for the Back To School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, which last year helped tens of thousands of families with back to school costs.
The allowance will be paid automatically to around 111,000 families in respect of approximately 204,000 children during the week beginning July 12.
The allowance is €150 for for each eligible child aged 4 - 11 years on or before September 30; it is €275 for those aged 12 - 22 years. Students aged between 18 - 22 years must be returning to full-time second-level education in a recognised school or college in the autumn of 2021 to retain an entitlement to payment.
The Department of Social Protection is currently processing payments and recipients will receive written confirmation informing them of their automatic entitlement. The Department will issue payments totalling around €42 million to these families during that week.
Families who do not receive notification from the Department of an automated payment today will need to make an application online on www.mywelfare.ie even if they received a payment last year. Online applications can be made anytime from July 21.