Hampshire County Council has confirmed that it will not be providing free school meals for students over half-term after a number of other councils announced plans to do so, the Gazette can reveal.

The local authority poured cold water on the idea when asked if it was planning to follow in the footsteps of councils such as Wigan and Sheffield City, who have announced they will be providing free school meals for all students over half-term.

A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council said: “Funding for Free School Meals goes directly from the Government to schools, and, while the County Council offers a catering service to schools, the criteria and eligibility for children to receive these meals is decided nationally.

“Additional funding has been provided by the Government to district councils to distribute to help those struggling to afford food and other essentials during the pandemic - https://www.gov.uk/government/news/63-million-for-local-authorities-to-assist-those-struggling-to-afford-food-and-other-essentials.”

A number of councils announced plans to continue funding free school meals following the rejection of a Labour motion calling for free school meals during holidays to be extended until Easter 2021 after a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford.

Councils from across the party divide have since confirmed plans, including Labour-led Birmingham City Council and Conservative Kensington and Chelsea.

Currently, Hampshire County Council provides free school meals for all children in reception, year one and year two during term time. Older students may be eligible if their parent or carer receives certain benefits, including Income Support, income-based Job Seekers' Allowance and income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

Those in further education between the ages of sixteen and eighteen may also be eligible.

Details regarding free school meals in Hampshire and how to apply for them can be found at: https://www.hants.gov.uk/educationandlearning/freeschoolmeals