Free School Meals: Voucher Schemes

Department for Education written question – answered on 22nd October 2020.

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Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Labour, Brentford and Isleworth

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans his Department has to extend free school meal vouchers in England to include the October 2020 half term.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Labour, Brentford and Isleworth

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans his Department has to extend the free school meal voucher program into 2021.

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

The free school meal (FSM) provision has supported children to access a healthy, nutritious meal to help them learn, concentrate and achieve, while they are at school, for more than a century. This provision is ingrained in the fabric of everyday school life. Now that our schools are fully open, this support has returned as normal. Provision for FSM is ordinarily term time only and there is no requirement for schools to continue this provision during school holidays. Therefore the National Voucher scheme has closed.

School leaders have worked incredibly hard during the COVID-19 outbreak and it is not reasonable to also ask them to provide food when they are closed for the holidays. However, we recognise the current challenges, and that is why we have significantly strengthened the welfare safety net. The government has injected more than £9 billion into the welfare system, including an increase to Universal Credit of up to £1,040 (£20 a week) for this financial year, and putting an average of £600 into people’s pockets through increases to the Local Housing Allowance. These are in addition to income protection schemes, mortgage holidays and additional support for renters.

These welfare measures sit alongside our extensive support package, including income protection schemes which have so far protected 12 million jobs and people, at a cost of almost £53 billion. Further to this, we provided an extra £63 million for local authorities to provide discretionary financial help to those in need.

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