School meals: Holiday payments made for a third of NI pupils –

The families of over 102,000 children in Northern Ireland received so-called "holiday hunger" payments over the 2022 school summer holidays.
That is about 30% of schoolchildren.
The payments of £27 each fortnight were made to families during the break to take the place of free school meals.
A longer term plan to continue the payments during school holidays until 2025 has not yet been agreed due to the collapse of the Stormont Executive.
The summer 2022 payments had been in doubt until the last minute due to the lack of an executive.
But in June, Education Minister Michelle McIlveen said the Department of Education (DE) would spend £12.6m to enable families to receive the money during July and August.
The Department of Education has also said it was "examining the issue of extending the School Holiday Food Grant to cover the Autumn mid-term break".
The minister has now released details of how many children received the "holiday hunger" payments in response to an assembly question from the Sinn Féin MLA Maolíosa McHugh.
In all 102,535 children from 57,859 families received the school holiday food grant to help with the cost of providing meals during the 2022 holidays.
Almost 16,000 families in Belfast received the payments – the council area with the highest number of families to get money from the scheme.
Derry City and Strabane was the next highest with almost 7,000 families.
Separately, the department is reviewing the eligibility criteria for free school meals.
In Wales, all nursery and primary school pupils are set to receive free school meals by 2024 under government plans, and there have been calls to extend provision in Northern Ireland.
Some schools in Northern Ireland have already decided to offer more pupils free meals in response to rises in the cost of living.
But they have to meet many of the costs of that from their own budgets or from money they raise themselves.
In response to a separate assembly question from independent MLA Claire Sugden, Ms McIlveen warned of big pressures on the education budget.
The minister said the department was facing "inescapable or pre-committed pressures" of about £550m.
"While work is ongoing to identify programmes of spend that could be scaled back or stopped, this will be extremely limited," she said.
"Obviously any reduction in spend would invariably require cuts to essential frontline services that support the most vulnerable within our society, as well as risking breaching statutory obligations.
"Some of the most significant pressures relate to pay (about £188m) and special educational needs (about £122m)."
Teaching unions are taking industrial action due to stalemate over a pay deal.
At well over £2bn, the education budget is Stormont's second biggest behind the one for the health service.
But a draft budget could not be agreed before the executive collapsed in February.
The Education Authority has previously also warned that it is facing a potential budget deficit of £200m in this financial year.
Holiday hunger payments not in place for summer
'Holiday hunger' payments to go ahead this summer
Free school meals rollout begins in Wales
Some NI schools offering more free meals to pupils
Teaching unions take industrial action over pay
Political crisis halts plans for three-year budget
Education Authority facing £200m budget deficit
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