Free school meals are available to eligible pupils during term time. That’s why the national voucher scheme, set up to help parents feed their families when they would not usually be doing so while schools were closed to many pupils, will not run over the summer holidays.
The Government recognises that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult for many families and that is why last week the Prime Minister announced that a new £63 million local authority welfare assistance scheme will provide help to those who are struggling to afford food and other essentials as a result. On top of this thousands of pupils will also receive additional support through our Holiday Activities and Food programme, which will be available over the summer.
The Government has injected £6.5 billion into the welfare system in response to the coronavirus outbreak, including increasing Universal Credit. Through this, urgent payments are available, while some people may be eligible for a nine-month grace period where their income is not capped.
Under usual circumstances, schools don’t provide free school meals to eligible children who are not in school. But during the coronavirus outbreak, we expect schools to continue supporting children eligible for benefits-related free school meals who are at home. We asked them to do this by either providing meals or food parcels for collection of delivery – something that will become more possible as schools open more widely and their kitchens reopen – or through either the Department's centrally funded voucher scheme or providing alternative vouchers.
We have also temporarily extended the eligibility criteria for free school meals to support families with no recourse to public funds, in recognition of the extra challenges they may be facing.
As of 12 June over £150million of Edenred vouchers have been redeemed by families and schools.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
“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 not yet able to return to school. Where this is not possible, schools can continue to offer vouchers to eligible pupils.
“Free schools meals are ordinarily term time only, and the national voucher scheme will not run during the summer holidays. However, as announced this week by the Prime Minister, the local authority welfare assistance scheme will provide help those to who are struggling to afford food and other essentials due to the impact of COVID-19. £63 million pounds is being allocated to this important project.”
“Thousands of children will also receive additional support through our Holiday Activities and Food programme, which offers activities and free meals throughout the summer holidays.”