Ipswich parents can 'survive not thrive' on £15 half-term food vouchers

CEO of Home-Start Suffolk Tara Spence

CEO of Home-Start Suffolk Tara Spence thinks more should be done for struggling parents outside of free school meals vouchers over half-term. - Credit: PA/Home-Start Suffolk

Vouchers to replace free school meals over half-term have allowed working parents to "survive" but not thrive in Ipswich says the head of a family support charity. 

The government has provided Suffolk County Council £15 per child in Edenred supermarket vouchers for income-related free school meal eligible children via their school.

But many parents continue to face a breaking point, CEO of family support charity Home-Start Suffolk Tara Spence said.

The charity has had a 47% rise, or around 300 extra families, needing their support when comparing 2019/2020 to 2020/21 levels. 

And with Christmas coming in December, parents face lacking the funds for presents. 

Ms Spence said: "It's really bad for families at the moment. 

"With inflation, they have two-thirds of the amount of money they had 11 months ago. 

Most Read

"I'm not going to complain about the vouchers. It's a really good provision but for families, the price of everything is going up so the government needs to look at making it level with rising costs."

She added the vouchers only help families survive and the drain of constantly worrying about money is a "big struggle". 

An anonymous single mum, who has four school-age children and works, agrees the vouchers help her feed her kids over the holidays. 

"They are a massive help to me," she said. "Yes, I can survive without them but I do just that, I survive.

"The vouchers give that little extra to be able to enjoy a day out occasionally. A picnic in the park for example and other little luxuries we wouldn't normally be able to get weekly, like ice creams in the hotter weather.

"Especially now in these times where the cost of everything has gone up but the amount of benefit received has pretty much stayed the same, and if the benefit goes up I then get stung by the benefit cap so I don't gain from any rise.

"Even if I earn a little more from the part-time job it gets taken away from me. The vouchers aren't counted and this makes a much-needed difference. A little extra without having to worry it will be given in one hand and not taken from the other."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter