Hampshire County Council will be funding support for vulnerable families this half-term after previously confirming it would not be funding free school meals.

The leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Keith Mans, announced that the authority will instead be “supporting a funding package” for food banks, charities and organisations to help vulnerable families “at a similar level to the Government’s previous free school meal voucher scheme.”

Cllr Mans said: “It’s obviously not possible to introduce a ‘voucher scheme’ ourselves for this half-term, but it is my intention that Hampshire will provide the same level of support for the half term break that would have otherwise been provided through the Government’s previous voucher scheme, by targeting support to those families in real need via food banks, charities and other relevant organisations.

“The County Council is already facing huge unplanned financial pressures as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, and not helped by the latest tranche of funding from Government which was significantly lower than we expected. Nonetheless, supporting vulnerable families during the school holidays must be a priority. By using food banks, charities and other organisations, we hope to do this.”

When asked by the Advertiser if they would be funding free school meals last week, the county council said that funding “goes directly from the Government to schools” and that the criteria for these was not within its control.

Hampshire County Council will fund the package partly through councillors’ grants for Covid-19 support, and says it is “exploring other sources of potential funding.”

Cllr Mans said, however, that he was “encouraging” borough and district councils to use their own funding “they still have available.”

He added that this was a “national issue, requiring a proper national solution” and will be writing to the Secretary of State and Hampshire’s MPs to ask for a long-term government strategy.