A local community organisation says Executive plans to provide supplementary payments for children who would receive free school meals will have a “huge impact” on families facing financial hardship during the Coronavirus Crisis. Deirdre Walsh, director of the Whiterock Children's Centre was speaking as local people came to their front doors in the area last night to salute NHS workers. 

With schools closed, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and Education Minister Peter Weir announced plans this week to make sure that almost 97,000 children who are entitled to free school meals are adequately provided for.

Deirdre Walsh, whose team has been gathering hampers of groceries and essential items for local families, said that while parents had not received payments yet, the Executive’s plans would have a positive impact in the coming weeks.

“People have kids in the house all day long and they’re eating far more, sometimes out of boredom," she said.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the full financial impact of Coronavirus yet because some people might still have a bit of money if they were paid monthly, but we’re getting ready for the onslaught by the end of this week.

She added: “There are a few people in dire straits because their wages have quickly stopped.

Families will receive £2.70 per child per day for each day of term the schools are closed.  This money will be paid on a fortnightly basis.”  

Bank details for the majority of recipients are already held by the Department of Education. Text messages will be sent to anyone whose details are not held next week and they will be advised to complete an online form which will then be available on the Education Authority website.