MORE THAN 1.3million children will have access to free school meals this summer thanks to a campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford. Who qualifies for free school meals this summer?
Manchester United player Marcus Ashford penned an open letter to MPs this week where he called for support for families who are “worried sick” about feeding their school children in the coming months. Rashford welcomed the Government U-turn, saying: “Look at what we can do when we come together.” The move comes after it was revealed that 600,000 people had lost their jobs throughout the course of the coronavirus pandemic.
Who qualifies for free school meals this summer?
The free school meal vouchers mean that anyone struggling to afford food will now be able to apply for support over the summer holidays.
Free school meal supermarket vouchers were first introduced in April following the closure of all schools in England due to the pandemic.
They come in the form of weekly electronic vouchers or gift cards that are worth £15 per child.
Once the vouchers are claimed, they can be spent in a wide range of supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose.
Children of all ages who are living in a household on income-related benefits can claim the vouchers via their school or local authority.
New claims made from April 2018 in England must come from household earning a maximum income of £7,400 a year after tax, not including any benefits.
The same rules apply in Scotland and Wales, but in Northern Ireland the household income threshold is £14,000.
If a child qualifies for free school meals, they will be eligible until they finish the phase of school they are in as of March 31, 2022, whether in primary or secondary school.
Official Government guidelines state that children qualify for free school meals if you are the recipient of Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit.
Around three million families have signed up to Universal Credit since the lockdown began in March, meaning many people who didn’t qualify may now be eligible.
Under the scheme, families who are eligible will be given a voucher at the end of the term covering the six weeks of the summer holiday, also worth £15 a week for each qualifying child.
How can I receive and redeem the vouchers?
The vouchers can be sent out to families in a variety of different ways, including having an eCode sent directly to the parent or carer of the qualifying pupil.
Schools are also able to print out and post eGift cards to families, or arrange for parents to come and collect it themselves from school.
Once families have received their voucher, they will be able to redeem them in supermarkets at the selected retailer by either presenting the voucher on a smartphone or tablet or a paper copy of the voucher.
The vouchers should not be redeemed for any age-restricted items, such as cigarettes, alcohol or lottery tickets.
The vouchers are worth £15 a week, the equivalent of £3 a day for every qualifying child.
This means that, for example, if you have two eligible children, then you are entitled to £30 worth of free school meal vouchers a week.
Parents can still apply for free school meals now, if they wish to. To apply, you should get in touch with your children’s school or your local authority.
Their details will then be verified before being registered onto the free school meals scheme.