Free school meals

Free school meals and emergency food for children and families during COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

COVID-19 - Please contact your school, not the Council if you want access to free school meals vouchers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Schools which are open for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children during the COVID-19 outbreak are continuing to provide meal options for staff and children who are in school, and free school meals for all eligible pupils in attendance. 

Children eligible for free school meals can now  benefit from a national government voucher scheme allowing them to continue to access meals whilst they stay at home. Coventry schools are working very hard to ensure that all children entitled to Free School meals are able to access them.

Schools can now provide families with a weekly shopping voucher worth £15 for every eligible child to spend at supermarkets, and/or provide meals for collection or delivery themselves.  Where this is not possible, schools can provide vouchers to families electronically, or as a gift card for those without internet access.

Free school meals vouchers can be spent on food at a range of shops including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, and M&S, and the Department of Education is working to get more shops to join the scheme as soon as possible.

How do I access this for my child/ren?

  1. Contact your child’s school and ask them about how you can access your child’s free school meals entitlement.
  2. Talk to them about the different ways that they are providing this and then choose from the options including:
    • Ask them to send you an ‘eCode’ directly to the parent or carers of the pupils(s) eligible for free school meals - you will need to choose an eGift card from a range of supermarkets
    • Or as them to send you an eGift card or/and print and post the eGift card to your home address

How do I redeem the voucher?

Once families have received their voucher, they will be able to redeem them in store at the selected retailer by either:

  • presenting the voucher on a smartphone or tablet
  • presenting a paper copy of the voucher

Families will then be able to select the most appropriate food and drink for their child/ren.

When can I get the free school meals?

Children can access this on a weekly basis and schools will also be able to continue using the national voucher scheme during the Easter holidays.

How can I access emergency food for my children and household and if you do not yet claim/in receipt of these benefits including free school meals?

If you are in need of food and emergency supplies then we may be able to help. As part of our approach to supplying food to those in need in the city at this time, we are able to provide emergency food parcels to those children/students attending primary and secondary schools, for families are struggling or facing difficult or challenging circumstances. This could be through your school, or your local Emergency Food Hub through the provision of a Foodbank voucher and household pack.

You may also be entitled to apply for a Community Support Grant, including a Crisis Fund.

You could also contact your local Family Hub, who will be able to talk  to you about what you and your children need and can provide you a food Bank voucher and help you access support through an Emergency Food Hub and other sources of help that you that need.

Beware of scams

We have been informed that some parents have received an email stating the following: 'As schools will be closing, if you're entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we'll make sure you're supported.'

We can confirm that this is a scam email and is not official. We urge parents that if you receive any emails like this, please do not respond, and delete it immediately.

Free School Meals for families with no recourse to public funds

During the COVID-19 outbreak, Free School Meal eligibility has been temporarily extended with immediate effect, to include some children of groups who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF). It is anticipated that this extension will end when schools have reopened to all children.

These groups are:

  • children of Zambrano carers;
  • children of families with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights;
  • children of families receiving support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 who are also subject to a no recourse to public funds restriction.

These groups are subject to a maximum household earnings threshold of £7,400 per annum.

We are also temporarily extending eligibility to children of a subset of failed asylum seekers supported under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. This group is not subject to a maximum household earnings threshold

We are working with colleagues in children’s social care and partner organisations, who are likely already supporting these families, to identify those children that are now entitled.

Full details and how to check for eligibility.

Who does this not apply to?

Please note that these changes do not apply to children of EEA nationals who may also be in need as some are also not be entitled to claim benefits. For these children schools should use the emergency food parcel route.  Families should contact their school and arrangements can be put in place, or please contact the COVID-19 helpline and you will be issued a foodbank voucher to use at one of the 10 emergency food hubs.

What do I do if I think my children are now entitled to Free School meals?

You will need to contact your child’s school, and they will support you to complete a short application form which includes a self-declaration statement. They will then be able to provide you with free school meals, through a voucher system or alternative means.

Further help for people with no recourse to public funds

In a recent High Court case, the Home Office made a series of concessions for those who have leave to remain with a No Recourse to Public Funds endorsement.

They can apply to change their status if:

  • their financial circumstances have changed since being given permission to stay in the UK and they are no longer able to provide food or housing for themselves or their family;
  • their child is at risk because of very low income;
  • they had financial problems when they first applied but they did not provide evidence of this and now want to provide this evidence.

This is an opportunity for those who are finding it hard to manage to apply to vary the conditions of their leave to remain. This allows people who are now unable to work because of COVID-19 to have immediate access to welfare support.

Coventry Law Centre Immigration Team can provide assistance with this application and can be contacted via the Law Centre Helpline on 07946 881145 or 07957 711080, or email [email protected]

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