29th April: Citizens UK, working with dozens of member schools, community and faith organisations experiencing high demand for emergency support for meals is seeking clarification from the Government on extensions and flexibility to the Free School Meal National voucher scheme as the Covid-19 school closure continues:
There are 1.3 million children from low-income families normally in receipt of free school meals in schools, these are essential in stopping children going hungry.
The scheme has been rapidly rolled out and in recent weeks since the launch of the National Voucher Scheme has seen a series of welcome policy changes and additions, but is suffering from low take-up, a lack of availability of suitable supermarkets in some areas and limitations on holiday cover. Headteachers from across the country have joined the call hundreds of letters have been sent to MPs, who are quizzing the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson in Parliament today during an Education Select Committee hearing.
Citizens UK is asking that the Government
- Confirm that schools will be reimbursed as they work flexibly in this crisis using a combination of the available approaches
- Continue the support of local schools and others to negotiate with national supermarkets to extend the voucher scheme
- Extend the voucher scheme to cover the May half term and the longer summer break.
- Enable schools to exercise discretion to issue vouchers in cases of need
David Watson, Headteacher, St. Thomas More RC Academy, North Tyneside said:
“We were grateful the government extended free school meal voucher scheme eligibility over the Easter holiday and temporarily included children of groups who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF). But there are still problems in meal provision that urgently need attention. So far in my school, there is only a 30% take-up from families entitled to free school meals. We need to ensure all families in need know how to access support and can do so quickly.”