Families struggling to get free school meals for their children during lockdown are having to resort to meals provided by the community.
Nationally, some families have been missing out on the lunches their children are entitled to when they attend school despite promises they would continue.
With schools either issuing vouchers for supermarkets or ready-made packed lunches to be picked up daily from schools, some took a longer time to get the system sorted and in place.
However, as the lockdown has continued and as the country heads into week 9, some family situations have changed, meaning their children are now entitled to free school meals – but their applications are not proceeding.
On the Island, in one ward, a charity has stepped up to provide meals for more than 15 pupils as their applications have stalled.
Isle of Wight Cllr Geoff Brodie, who represents Newport East, the area on the Island with the highest level of child poverty, expressed concerns residents had told him about not receiving the meals. He said:
“I consider it very disappointing that the council will not consider support for families who are suddenly out of work because of the lockdown and are having trouble getting free school meals entitlements for their children.
“If a little community charity like Pan Together can help these families in my area whilst this is happening, surely the council can help across the Island? Particularly with the millions of pound of crisis support they have had from central government.
“Surely, children should be the priority of any caring Council.”
According to the Department for Education (DfE), schools and local authorities should continue to accept free school meal applications.
When asked how the council was supporting the free school meal applications and how the system was working, it said it has urged school leaders to follow the guidance around the entitlement to free school meals.
As well as providing the guidelines, an Isle of Wight Council spokesperson said:
“Schools are autonomous institutions and have to ensure free school meals are provided in line with the guidance.
“Several schools have continued to provide meals through their catering contract and this appears to have worked well.
“Those schools that switched to the national voucher scheme expressed huge concerns initially that the system wasn’t functioning correctly.
“The Isle of Wight Council made regular representations to the DfE about the national voucher scheme in common with many other local authorities and schools.
“The latest reports we are receiving from schools is that the initial problems appear to be being ironed out and it is functioning much better.”
Guidance says it is up to individual schools to decide whether they provide a voucher system or a daily packed lunch.