One million kids on free school meals to get £15 weekly vouchers through Easter holidays too

ONE million kids on free school meals will get a £15 weekly voucher throughout the Easter holidays too, the Government has said.

Usually parents don't get extra help with food during the holidays, but ministers have u-turned on the rules thanks to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

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Micheal Gove said yesterday: "For children eligible for free school meals, vouchers will be available through the holidays to support household income."

He added that more news was to come on this.

Campaigners including celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and headteachers had called for all kids to get extra help during the holidays too.

He has said: “Now more than ever we need to make it as easy as possible for parents and carers to feed their kids well.”

Stephen Tierney, chairman of the Heads Roundtable, which represents head teachers, welcomed the news.

He said: "The announcement by Michael Gove is really welcome. Without this thousands of children were likely to go hungry over the Easter break.

"We hope the government will now consider making vouchers available every holiday for the poorest families."

The vouchers, worth £15 a week per child, can be spent on food at supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose and M&S.

Parents need to apply directly to their child's school to receive the additional help – it's then up to the school to decide whether they'll get vouchers or meals.

If the school is giving out vouchers, these can be emailed or posted to parents.

It's not yet clear whether it will extend to the summer holidays too.

The lockdown is scheduled to last for another week – but is likely to be extended.

Schools are only open for the children of key workers at the moment, with all other children staying home.

They will stay open for the Easter holidays for those children too.

Around two per cent of all children are continuing to go to school, the Department for Education have said.

Last week the Government and BBC announced a partnership for 14 weeks of lessons on the telly – in a hint that schools would be shut for the entire of the next term as well.

Gavin Williamson has suggested they may not open again until the next school year starts in September.

Who qualifies for free school meals?

CHILDREN usually qualify for free school meals if their parents get certain benefits, such as Universal Credit or working tax credit.

You'll likely qualify if you get any of the following:

  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of pension credit
  • Child tax credit (provided you’re not also entitled to working tax credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working tax credit run-on
  • Universal Credit

Before coronavirus hit, children in reception, year one and year two automatically got free school meals if they attend a government-funded school.

This applies whether their parents claim benefits or not.

But while schools are shut due to COVID-19, these children won't be covered unless their parents recieve benefits, as mentioned above.

Under normal circumstances, schools are not expected to provide free school meals to children when they're off sick

The news came after it was confirmed yesterday that under sevens WON'T get any help with free school meals.

Under normal circumstances, all children in reception, year one and year two automatically get free school meals if they attend a government-funded school – regardless of whether their parents claim benefits.

But these children won’t be covered as standard by the government’s new scheme, designed to help parents financially while schools are shut due to the spread of COVID-19.

Instead, they’ll only be covered if their parents claim certain benefits.

The policy has been slammed by the Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield who called it "extremely worrying" for the almost one million families who've had to sign up to Universal Credit since the coronavirus outbreak.

In a breakdown of the free school meals guidelines on the GOV website, the Department for Education states: "There is no requirement to continue to provide universal infant free school meals to pupils in reception, year one, or year two who are unable to attend school.

"Children in those year groups who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals will be supported."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Our focus is making sure that the 1.3 million disadvantaged children who would normally have a free school meal on a school day do not go hungry as a result of staying home to protect the NHS and save lives.

"We are providing schools with continued funding for free school meals and have launched a national voucher scheme, backed by additional government funding, to make sure all eligible children can still benefit.

"Many schools also have local arrangements in place and are working flexibly with their food suppliers during the school holidays."


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