Knowsley Council is urging parents / carers of Knowsley school children to make sure they check to see if they might be eligible for free school meals support during the lockdown.
Since schools closed on 20 March, Knowsley Council has provided lunches* for more than 10,748 children a week ensuring families are supported during this difficult time. This has included support for all those eligible through the Pupil Premium means tested benefit and also all children in Reception and Years 1 and 2 who receive Universal Free School meals (not means tested).
However, with the government deciding not to fund Universal Free School Meals, the council is keen to ensure children and families in Knowsley don’t miss out. Families are encouraged to check if they are eligible for means tested Free School Meals and to provide school with their email address.
Cllr Shelley Powell, Cabinet Member for Communities & Neighbourhoods, commented:
“The government’s decision not to fund the Universal Free School meals scheme, at this time, means that it is simply not possible for local authorities to continue to cover this cost, all other councils have already moved to funding only means tested free school meals. We want to make sure however that everyone who needs our support can get it, so we are urging parents with infant school children to check again to see if they might be eligible under the Pupil Premium scheme.
“Some people, particularly those with young children who have been receiving free schools meals as part of the universal offer, may not realise they have to apply for the Pupil Premium benefit. In other cases, which we are seeing at the moment, a family’s financial circumstances may have changed and they could be eligible now, when previously that was not the case.
“Our message is clear – it’s best to check. You can do this by visiting the council’s website and checking whether you receive one of the benefits listed.”
Knowsley introduced its own e-voucher school meals scheme on 27 March. The current system, which has now been extended until Friday 8 May, is delivered with partner Wonde who manage and facilitate an e-voucher system direct with all schools in the borough.
Schools issue vouchers to parents and carers of eligible children according to school records via a text message or email on a fortnightly basis. They then receive a voucher to the value of £3 per child, per day for each two week (10 school days) period. The vouchers can then be spent at Asda, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s and Tesco supermarkets.
Knowsley introduced its voucher system after delays with the government launching a national scheme. Whilst local authorities can switch over to the national scheme immediately, Knowsley Council is holding off the switch, for now, until it can be reassured that the national scheme is operating well. In the meantime, families are encouraged to provide school with their up to date email address to ensure they don’t miss out if the national system is adopted in Knowsley.
Cllr Shelley Powell, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods & Communities, added:
“It has taken a lot of work to implement our own free school meals system and we simply aren’t prepared to take the risk – at this point – to move to the national scheme. However, as we move forward it is likely Knowsley will adopt the national scheme at which point the vouchers will only be available for Pupil Premium free school meals. We want to make sure our families are ready for that, which is why we’re also asking parents to make sure school has their current email address, because the national system only issues vouchers to families by email.”
The Knowsley system will automatically continue from Monday 27 April for a further two weeks. The council and schools will continue to keep parents up to date with any changes as the situation continues.
Information about benefits related free school meals and how to apply can be found on the Knowsley Council website.
*for the first week following school closures packed lunches were distributed until the voucher scheme was ready to be launched on Monday 27 March