York families had to turn to food banks over Easter after school meal voucher delays

Photograph: wallpaperflare.com

Problems with the government’s food voucher scheme for vulnerable children means some families needed to turn to charities for help over the Easter weekend.

The government launched a programme to help children who usually get free meals at school to get food while they are at home during the coronavirus lockdown.

Schools were told to continue to provide meals for vulnerable children – either through delivering them or offering food parcels.

Where this is not possible, schools are tasked with handing out weekly £15 vouchers for food for eligible pupils.

But the system was hit by delays at the weekend – which meant schools including Millthorpe School were unable to get vouchers for families in need.

Vouchers being processed

Millthorpe School, York. Photograph © Google Street View

Instead, the school worked with food banks, charities and the council to make sure vulnerable children were fed.

Head teacher Gemma Greenhalgh said: “There have been some problems with the government voucher scheme website which has meant some delays in processing the vouchers.

“Our pastoral team has been working with York Foodbank and other charities to supply families with food over the last week and over the Easter weekend, we gave all our families the details of the City of York Council’s helpline, so that they could request help directly.

“We had also begun to plan for alternative provision for our families but have managed to process the vouchers today.

“We will continue to offer support during this time and are in regular contact with a large number of families to provide support and reassurance.”

System upgraded

A Department for Education spokesperson said there were issues with the system but it has now been upgraded: “We know that the free school meal voucher system is delivering for thousands of schools.

“We continue to work closely with our supplier Edenred to resolve any outstanding issues quickly and we thank schools for their patience while the system was successfully upgraded over the Bank Holiday weekend.”

The government confirmed this month the free school meal vouchers will be available throughout the Easter holidays