Free school meals: How to get vouchers if your child has free school meals

With the UK under lockdown due to the spread of coronavirus, there is upheaval across the country as people adjust to working from home, and children adjust to time off school. For parents, this may be a stressful time, as not only do they have to homeschool their children, but there is an added cost come mealtime.

Approximately 1.3 million children across the UK receive free school meals, and until this point schools had been helping to feed those children.

Now, the Government has introduced a scheme by which parents will receive a £15 supermarket voucher for one week of lunches.

This is equivalent to £3 per child per meal across the five days they would normally be in school.

The scheme comes into effect from today – Tuesday, March 31.

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How to get vouchers if your child has free school meals

Schools will still continue to provide meals for collection or delivery across the UK, however where this is not available the voucher system will make sure children are not left without.

Schools will be able to order the voucher codes online from today, with parents getting the voucher through their child’s school.

The vouchers can either be redeemed online using a code shown on a phone, or sent to their house as a gift card.

It can be used at supermarkets including Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose across the country.

If you do not have access to the internet, you can ask the school to claim for the vouchers on your behalf and then paper copies will be sent.

The total value of vouchers granted per eligible child per week is higher than the money paid to schools for free school meals.

This is down to the Government recognising families will not be buying food in bulk like schools do and may, therefore, have higher shopping costs.

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England’s Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said of the scheme: “I recognise that the unprecedented action this Government is taking to protect the country from coronavirus, including closing schools, is dramatically affecting the lives of many families.

“I want to thank schools for the support they are continuing to provide to families during such uncertain times.

“No child should go hungry as a result of the measures introduced to keep people at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

“That’s why we are launching this scheme to make sure children who usually benefit from free school meals still have access to healthy and nutritious meals while they are not attending school.”

How long will the UK be on lockdown?

The current lockdown is in place for three weeks, which would mean it would lift on April 13.

However, there is a review planned to take place at the end of this period – meaning the lockdown could be extended.

With the current trajectory of coronavirus and looking at the countries who are ahead of the UK in terms of the progression of the virus, it is unlikely the lockdown will be lifted on April 13.

On Sunday, March, 30, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries said lockdown measures could last up to six months – and possibly longer.

She said: “The issue of the three weeks is for us to review where we are and see if we’ve had an impact jointly on the slope of that curve.

“But I think to make it clear to the public if we are successful we will have squashed the top of that curve, which is brilliant, but we must not then suddenly revert to our normal way of living that would be quite dangerous.

“If we stop then all of our efforts will be wasted and we could potentially see a second peak. So over time, probably over the next six months, we will have a three-week review.”

She also added it is “plausible” restrictions could be in place for longer.

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