Free School Meals: Voucher Schemes

Department for Education written question – answered on 1st July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Jones of Cheltenham Lord Jones of Cheltenham Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will continue the provision of food vouchers for children in need beyond the summer period.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), 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.

During this period, we are asking schools to support children who are eligible for and claiming benefits-related free school meals at home, 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. Where this is not possible, we have introduced a national voucher scheme to provide headteachers with additional flexibility to decide what is best for families at their schools. Edenred has reported that over £183 million worth of voucher codes has been redeemed into supermarket eGift cards by schools and families through the scheme as of Wednesday 24 June.

More information about the national voucher scheme is available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance-for-schools.

Provision for free school meals is ordinarily term time only. However, owing to the COVID-19 outbreak, the government understands that children and parents face an entirely unprecedented situation over the summer. To reflect this, we will be providing additional funding for a COVID Summer Food Fund which will enable families with children who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals to receive food vouchers covering the 6-week holiday period.

Our guidance on the COVID Summer Food Fund is available here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/covid-summer-food-fund.

Through the COVID Summer Food Fund, schools can support eligible pupils with a £90 voucher to cover the 6-week holiday period. Schools must order the vouchers at least one week before their school term ends. If a school receives a claim for an eligible child during the final week before the school’s summer holidays, it will be possible for the school to place an exceptional order for that child via our supplier Edenred.

We are working to ensure all children can return in September, allowing them to have their free school meal at school. The department will be setting out more detail on plans for September in due course.

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