What school closures means for children on Free School Meals

The government has announced that schools will be closed for pupils from when they shut the gates on Friday as part of the Covid-19 fightback.

But many – even those who have called for school closures – have worried what it would mean for children who receive free school meals.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson made commitments that every pupil eligible for a free school meals would be able to access meals going forward.

Mr Williamson said the Government will put in place a national voucher system for children eligible for free school meals.

It is understood the vouchers will have a monetary value and families will be able to choose how to spend it.

Mr Williamson said the Government will put in place a national voucher system for children eligible for free school meals.

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He said: "We will give schools the flexibility to provide meals or vouchers to children who are eligible for free school meals. Some schools are already doing this and we will make sure those costs are reimbursed.

"As soon as possible, we will put in place a national voucher system for every child who is eligible for free school meals."

He added: "I know that all of this is not going to be easy. I am asking nurseries, schools and colleges to be at the forefront of our national response to this crisis.

"Given the unprecedented asks we are making of all of those who are working in educational settings at this time, I recognise we are asking so much of them and we'll be asking them to be able to provide these settings to be open for those children of key workers and those vulnerable children during the Easter holidays as well."

He added that the government has not ruled out making extra payments from the DWP to make up for the loss but the first step was a voucher system.

Asked for more detail Mr Williamson said: "In order to make sure that every child who is eligible for a meal is able to access it we are moving to issue vouchers to every eligible child immediately from next week.

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"I would like to progress to a stage where in some schools there are meals provided, but that depends on staffing in those schools."

Lib Dem Education spokeswoman Layla Moran said:“I am glad that the Government has listened to my calls that children on free school meals must not go hungry.

"A national voucher scheme is the right approach, but the Government must not forget pupils just above the poverty line and ensure all students have the resources they need to study at home.

"For those still at school, canteens must remain open so that vulnerable children can still access what could be their only hot meal of the day."

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