Since the middle of March last year, the UK has had two major lockdowns, to be able to decrease the number of cases that the UK has experienced and to gain control over the virus. The lockdown had not been as effective as the government had hoped, as many citizens had not stuck to the rules such as wearing a mask outside, only leaving your house for essential reasons, and only meeting one individual. Due to these rules being ignored, the lockdown has not been a complete success.
The lockdowns had not only affected all businesses but have also caused schools to shut down temporarily, leaving some poorer families in distress, as parents were worried that their children will no longer have access to free school meals that they are entitled to, as some families may not have the funds to provide school meals.
The updated guidance was issued on Friday, giving more insight into what will be available to help schools provide free school meals to qualifying children during the latest National Lockdown.
Children that are eligible to receive free school meals will include all infant pupils that qualify for benefits-related school meals. Schools are heavily encouraged to provide food parcels and to discuss their matter with their catering services to implement this temporary change. Schools that do decide to give out food parcels will be able to claim back £3.50 per pupil per week to cover the additional costs.
There are benefits of receiving a provided food parcel, some of these advantages include:
- Nutritional & varied range of food that meets the school food standard
- Many catering services may already have experience in this sector
- Safeguarding – making sure pupils do receive a healthy nutritional lunch
- Reducing food waste
- Continuous financial support to school caters
Alternatively, if schools are unable to provide food parcels, local vouchers may be given out to children, which can be spent at local supermarkets or stores. Schools will be reimbursed £15 per eligible pupil each week. Families will have the option to collect or have the vouchers delivered, however social distancing must be put in place.
Schools will be able to claim free school meals starting from the 4th January up to February half term, with the half-term being covered by the recently announced Winter Grant Scheme which was introduced back in November. This scheme will grant funds to councils that will be used to provide direct assistance and support to families with children or other vulnerable households and individuals. The funds will be used directly to cover the cost of food, energy, and water bills as well as any other essential costs.
Last, of all, the guidance has specifically said that that the DfE (Department of Education) will provide families with the national voucher scheme that they will fund. Please get in contact with your school for any more queries regarding this subject, as your school may already have chosen their method of how they will distribute free school meals, whether this would be through food parcels or through giving families vouchers that can be spent at local supermarkets or stores.
For more information on this matter, please visit this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance-for-schools