Schools told NOT to provide free school meals vouchers during February half term

SCHOOLS have been told NOT to provide free school meal vouchers to families during the February half-term.

After the fierce row over meagre food parcels being sent out to vulnerable families, fresh advice from the Department of Education has told schools they do not need to dole out the vouchers to kids.

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The guidance says: "Schools do not need to provide lunch parcels or vouchers during the February half-term.

"There is wider government support in place to support families and children outside of term time through the Covid Winter Grant Scheme.”

Instead, families will need to go to their local council to access free school meals through the Government's Covid Winter Grant scheme, worth £170million.

At least 80 per cent of the cash was earmarked to give support with food and essential utility costs until the end of March.

Kids were provided with free school meals over the Easter and Summer holidays last year.

A massive row exploded over free school meals over October half term, with a slew of councils across the country agreeing to fund kids' food over the holidays out of their own budgets.

Footballer Marcus Rashford, who has become the figure head of the free school meal campaign, forced the Government to provide the extra cash for children at risk of going hungry over Christmas.

It comes only a day after Boris Johnson branded food boxes packed with little more than potatoes, cans of beans, a loaf of bread and a block of cheese "a disgrace".

The PM said the packages were an “insult to the families that have received them” and vowed to correct the problem.

And Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told MPs he was "disgusted" by the images of food packages, with as little as £5 worth of food in some.

Guidance from the DfE now tells schools they will be able to claim for a voucher retrospectively if food parcels do not meet the standard expected.

It says: “Further details on how and when additional costs can be reclaimed will be provided shortly. Valid claims for costs will be met in full.

“Support should be provided each week for benefits-related free school meal pupils at home during the national lockdown and school opening restrictions, from the week beginning 4 January to the week beginning 8 February.”

Union leaders have lashed out at the new guidance.

Joint general secretary of the National Education Union Kevin Courtney told The Times: “It is simply astonishing that the government has, once again, revealed its total disregard for those hardest hit by the ongoing pandemic.

“After a year in which the stark inequalities faced by millions of children and young people has been at the forefront of the minds of the public, the ugly spectre of holiday hunger is now looming yet again."

Mr Courtney said the PM's anger over the food parcels was "put in the shade" but the new guidance, storming: "These are battles which should not have to be repeatedly fought.”

The Sun has requested comment from the Department for Education.


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