Free school meals: Different approaches by councils leading to problems

Unite is raising concerns over the different arrangements by councils across Wales to deliver free school meals to eligible children.

Approaches taken by councils vary from delivery of frozen meals/packed lunches, making bank transfer payments or sending vouchers to the parent/carer of every child entitled to a meal.   There are problems particularly associated with some of these voucher schemes as they are only redeemable in certain shops which is proving difficult for families to access.

Pasty Turner, Unite Community co-ordinator for Wales, said ‘Unite members, including myself, are volunteering across our communities and are worried about how free school meals are getting to children during this lockdown.  We know how important it is that children get at least one hot meal a day and for thousands of children in Wales that is their free school meal.

“‘There seems to be no common approach from councils in how to deal with this.  Some are delivering frozen meals, others are giving out packed lunches.  The voucher scheme, which many are dong, is problematic as they are only accepted at big retail outlets such as Tesco or Asda. There is no choice in which store to use, especially if they want to stay local.  For those living in rural areas, accessing these retail stores becomes very difficult.  Bank transfers do not guarantee the child will get a meal as families may be struggling with financial hardship and debt.

“We know that Welsh government is developing a national voucher scheme, but time is going by and many children are losing out.  We are calling on Welsh government to liaise with local authorities to develop a system which ensures these children receive the meals directly’.

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