Thank you for contacting me about the provision of Free School Meals (FSM) during the Coronavirus outbreak. No child should go hungry as a result of this pandemic.
I welcome the action being taken to help schools keep providing FSM for eligible families during this difficult period. Schools are being encouraged, where possible, to continue providing meals or food parcels for eligible pupils through their existing food providers.
To ensure that children do not go hungry, on 31st March a national scheme was launched for schools to provide supermarket vouchers to eligible pupils, with costs covered by the Department for Education (DfE). I welcome that this gives school leaders the flexibility to determine the best way to support families in their communities.
The vouchers are worth £15 a week per child, which is higher than the amount schools usually receive for FSM. Schools can place orders for vouchers online for parents and carers, who will be able to use them in a variety of supermarkets.
I am informed that the list of participating supermarkets currently includes Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, M&S, Waitrose, Aldi and McColl’s and I know Ministers are working to expand this list. Where families are unable to access any of these supermarkets, schools can buy vouchers for other retailers and the DfE will refund the cost.
Further, I welcome that during this challenging period, the eligibility criteria for FSM is temporarily being extended. This includes some groups who have no recourse to public funds. Further details can be found here.
This system was developed at pace to support families across England, and I am assured that the Department for Education is working closely with the supplier to ensure orders are processed quickly, develop the system capacity and resolve technical problems.
COVID-19 Summer Food Fund
The Fund will provide food vouchers covering the six-week summer holiday period. The scheme will not continue beyond the summer, and those eligible will be those who already qualify for free school meals. A one-off six-week voucher will be given to eligible families at the end of term to use in supermarkets. Further details about the scheme can be found here.
Significant wider support has also been made available for children and families. On 10 June the Prime Minister confirmed an additional £63 million to be distributed to local authorities in England to help those who are struggling to afford food and other essentials due to COVID-19. In addition, Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit have been uplifted by around £1,000 a year for the next 12 months as part of an injection of over £6.5 billion into the welfare system.
Thank you for your interest in this campaign. As ever, if you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.