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Free School Meals: Voucher Schemes

Department for Education written question – answered on 6th May 2020.

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Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Labour, Leeds East

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many and what proportion of children eligible for free school meals have received vouchers since that scheme was opened in (a) Leeds, (b) Yorkshire & the Humber and (c) the UK.

Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Labour, Leeds East

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what average waiting time is for schools to access the website to obtain free school meal vouchers in (a) Leeds, (b) Yorkshire & the Humber and (c) the UK.

Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Labour, Leeds East

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what the average time has been from order to delivery for free school meals vouchers since the scheme was introduced in (a) Leeds, (b) Yorkshire & the Humber and (c) the UK.

Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Labour, Leeds East

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what the average time has been for Edenred to respond to emails from (a) schools and (b) parents in relation to free school meal vouchers in (a) Leeds, (b) Yorkshire & the Humber and (c) the UK.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

As both my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have made clear, the government will do whatever it takes to support people affected by COVID-19.

Around 1.3 million children are eligible for and claiming benefits-related free school meals. During this period, we are asking schools to support these children by providing meals or food parcels through their existing food providers wherever possible. We know that many schools are successfully delivering food parcels or arranging food collections for eligible children, and we encourage this approach where it is possible.

However, we recognise that providing meals and food parcels is not a practicable option for all schools. That is why on 31 March we launched a national voucher scheme as an alternative option, with costs covered by the Department for Education.

We are monitoring the use of the scheme on a daily basis. As of 28 April, our supplier Edenred reported that over 16,500 schools had placed orders for the scheme, and as of 4 May, Edenred reported that more than £47 million worth of voucher codes had been redeemed into supermarket eGift cards by schools and families through the scheme. We do not hold the specific data requested for the scheme at a local or regional level.

Once an eCode has been ordered, it will be sent within four days. Edenred is keeping schools informed of the status of orders once they have been placed. Schools can choose to ‘bulk order’ eCodes for regular distribution (e.g. on a weekly basis), in which case the eCode will be sent on or before the date specified. The eCodes must then be redeemed to create an eGift card, which will be received within 24 hours. We continue to work closely with our supplier and with schools to increase the speed at which orders can be processed.

On 4 May, Edenred reported that on the previous day, the average wait time for families and schools accessing the website to redeem their voucher codes was under 30 minutes. Edenred are aiming to respond to all email queries within 2 working days. We are very grateful to families and schools for their understanding and patience while Edenred upgrade this service to meet increased demand.

These are rapidly developing circumstances; we continue to keep the situation under review and will keep Parliament updated accordingly.

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