The government’s scheme of replacing free school meals during the coronavirus shutdown went live last week. Now, parents and carers of the 1.3 million schoolchildren in the UK who are eligible for free school meals can get a £15 weekly voucher
The vouchers are eligible during term time weeks and the Easter holidays. The voucher can be used in a number of supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, Morrrison’s and Asda. The vouchers will be distributed by schools. Some schools will also be keeping their kitchens open (or using off-site caterers), and will be able to deliver the school dinners or have them collected by a parent or carer.
The voucher, which works out at £3 per school dinner, is a bit more than the government usually gives schools to cover free school meals. Usually, £2.30 is paid out to schools for each school meal, working out at £11.50 per week. But critics of the new scheme have pointed out that schools are able to bulk buy, and so the money can go further.
Launching the scheme last week, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘No child should go hungry as a result of the measures introduced to keep people at home, protect the NHS and save lives. That’s why we are launching this scheme to make sure children who usually benefit from free school meals still have access to healthy and nutritious meals while they are not attending school.’
Schools are able to email a code out to parents who can then use the code at the supermarket. Or, alternatively, a gift card can be sent out through the post which will be topped up on a week by week basis.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders warned that £3 per day may not be enough. “Let’s be under no illusions, this will be a tough situation,” he told the BBC. “It will be challenging for parents and carers who already have the extra cost of children unexpectedly at home for an extended period.”
For more info on the scheme, see the government’s website here.
Updated at 14.30 on 7/4/2020 to reflect the news that vouchers are eligible during Easter holidays