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Free School Meals: Voucher Schemes

Department for Education written question – answered on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (North of England) (Northern Powerhouse), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to increase the number of supermarkets where free school meal vouchers are redeemable; and if he will take steps to help ensure that those vouchers are redeemable at (a) Co-op, (b) Spar and (c) all other supermarkets.

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

During this period, we are asking schools to support children who are at home and eligible for and claiming benefits-related free school meals 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.

The vouchers for free school meals can currently be spent in a variety of supermarkets. Initially, the scheme included supermarkets that already have e-gift card arrangements in place with our supplier, Edenred, including Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, M&S and Waitrose. On Monday 27 April, we added Aldi to this list and on Wednesday 29 April, we added McColl’s. We have been working with other supermarkets to encourage them to join. Any additional supermarkets would need to have the right infrastructure to deliver e-gift cards across their network of stores.

Schools are best placed to make decisions about the most appropriate free school meal arrangements for eligible pupils during this period.

As schools open more widely, and their kitchens reopen, we expect schools to make food parcels available for collection or delivery for any children that are eligible for free school meals who are staying at home.

Where this is not possible, schools can use the national voucher scheme or make alternative voucher arrangements locally. Our guidance for schools sets out that they can be reimbursed for costs incurred where the national voucher scheme is not suitable for their families, and this can include alternative voucher arrangements with supermarkets that are not part of the national voucher scheme.

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