Details of the government’s Covid summer food fund have finally been released, over a week after the scheme was unveiled.
The fund will allow schools to order free school meals vouchers for eligible children to cover the summer holidays following a government U-turn.
Guidance on the fund has now been published, setting out how the ordering system will work.
Here’s what we learned.
1. Schools can order £90 vouchers, or £105 if their holiday is longer…
Vouchers will be worth £90 per pupil to cover a six-week holiday period, but schools with seven-week summer holidays can order vouchers worth £105.
In “exceptional circumstances”, schools may decide to “schedule a number of smaller vouchers to be sent to a family instead of a single £90 voucher”, the guidance states, but the total combined value of these vouchers “cannot exceed £90 per eligible child”.
2…but there appear to be two funds (so make sure to use the right one)
Orders for the summer fund vouchers will be placed via Edenred’s online portal, which schools have been using to order term-time vouchers.
However, schools need to be careful that they don’t try to order vouchers from the term-time system to cover the summer.
“You must ensure that you do not order vouchers through the free school meals national voucher scheme for holiday weeks that are covered by the Covid summer food fund,” the guidance states.
3. The ordering deadline is a week before term ends
Schools must order summer vouchers “at least one week before your school term ends”, and they will then be issued to families within seven days (unless schools have specified a a distribution date “further in the future”, which must be before the end of term).
For example, schools closing on July 17 must place orders for all vouchers by July 10.
4. DfE will check if schools have over-ordered
In its guidance, the DfE said it would “continue to monitor voucher orders at school level to check if they are ordered in line with our estimates of the number of eligible children”.
“If a school’s orders are higher than expected, we may speak to the school about why this has occurred and will take forward any necessary action to rectify the position.”
The DfE will also complete a cross-check to see if schools have also claimed for providing free school meals via its exceptional costs fund.
5. Eight supermarkets are covered
As with the term-time voucher scheme, the supermarkets for which gift cards can be purchased are Aldi, Asda, M&S, McColl’s, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.
Families can redeem vouchers by either presenting them on their smartphone or tablet, or by presenting a paper copy.
6. Schools can make ‘alternative arrangements’
Where families cannot access any of the supermarkets mentioned above, schools “can make alternative voucher arrangements with a local supermarket that is not listed above”.
However, schools would need to claim the costs back via the government’s exceptional costs system, which carries a number of restrictions.
7. Pupils can be added if they become eligible
The DfE guidance states that “any child currently in receipt of benefits-related free school meals or who becomes eligible during the summer term is eligible for the Covid summer food fund”.
This suggests that current year 11 and 13 pupils who are due to leave their phase of education this year are covered, although this is not clearly stated.
Schools are also being told to continue to accept and verify free school meal applications up until the end of term, and if they receive a claim for an eligible child after the final ordering date for summer vouchers, they will be able to place an “exceptional order” for that child via the Edenred system.
8. Families can’t also access emergency LA funding
According to the guidance, the government expects that families supported by the Covid summer food fund “will not be accessing the local authority emergency assistance grant for the same purpose”.