SCHOOL children are to get a weekly supermarket voucher worth £15 to replace free meals while their schools are shut during the coronavirus crisis.
The payments work out at £3 a day, up 70p from what schools are paid per pupil to provide meals, but won't come into force until next week, Schools Week reports.
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The vouchers will be provided by a third party hired by the government and parents will be able to redeem them at all major supermarkets.
Head teachers have been told about the scheme but it's not yet clear whether schools will be expected to provide them over the Easter holidays, according to the trade publication.
The Department for Education has not yet confirmed the finer details of the scheme.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised that free school meals would continue in his address to the nation last Thursday but the government has since been accused of dragging its feet in implementing the scheme.
Children who can still go to school
THE government says schools will stay open for children of “key workers” and vulnerable kids only.
However, the government hasn't released a full list of the jobs that will count as "key workers".
It's understood that NHS staff, police and supermarket delivery drivers are examples of the sorts of jobs that will be covered.
In terms of vulnerable children, these are thought to be those who have a social worker, or an education, health and care plan in place.
He said: "We are making provisions to supply meals and vouchers for children eligible for free school meals.
"And where some schools are already doing this, I want to make it clear we will reimburse the cost."
Schools have been shut since Friday last week in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus, leaving parents who struggle financially to foot the extra cost of feeding their children at home.
Around 1.3million children around the UK currently get free school meals, usually because their parents get certain benefits, such as Universal Credit or working tax credit.
Children in reception, year 1 and year 2 automatically get free school meals if they attend a government funded school.
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You can check if you're eligible by using the government website.
All of those who qualify will be able to continue to get them under the new scheme.
Under normal circumstances, schools are not expected to provide free school meals to children when they're off sick but this may change under the new scheme.
The DfE previously announced that it will be up to the schools to work out how it will distribute the food vouchers to the most vulnerable families.
It also said that instead of providing vouchers, schools could use their regular in-house catering team, a local meal delivery service or private catering provider to bring lunch to pupils at home.
Parents are advised to contact their childrens' schools to find out what help is being offered.
Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary, said last week: "No child who would ordinarily receive a free school meal should go without this while their school is closed or while they are having to self-isolate at home.
"By giving headteachers flexibility on how they can get meals or shop vouchers to these children, they can make the most appropriate decisions for families in their communities, and provide immediate reassurance that this important support will continue."
Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford said: "We are working urgently to set up a national voucher scheme for pupils entitled to free school meals who are staying at home to protect our NHS and save lives.
"This is a major undertaking and I thank schools for the work they are doing to help support families while it is being set up. We have already said we will reimburse schools for any additional costs incurred.”
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