A CITY MP has raised major concerns that the operation of the Government’s free school meal voucher scheme, set up as part of the coronavirus response, could be preventing children from low income families receiving free school meals.

In a letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, Judith Cummins MP (Lab, Bradford South) outlines what she says are significant issues with the Government online voucher system operated by Edenred which have been brought to her attention by a number of Bradford schools.

She wrote: “Schools have described a number of issues including an unworkable website, significant delays in receiving the vouchers, and then long queues for parents trying to redeem them. One school described the website as ‘very slow and frustrating’, whilst another described a week-long delay between making an order and parents receiving their online codes.

“Several schools have reported having to buy their own vouchers or provide lunches directly as this system is so unusable. I am seriously concerned that these issues are preventing children from low income families from receiving the free school meals to which they are entitled. This very clearly cannot be allowed to continue. Please can you set out what steps you are taking to improve this system or, if that is not possible, to switch to a better one.”

Ms Cummins said: “At the very start of the coronavirus crisis I raised with the Government the need to ensure that children who need free school meals continued to receive them. Unfortunately, the system they have set up is simply not fit for purpose.

"I am really worried that families who rely on free school meals are missing out. The effect on children could be devastating. This is urgent and the Government must act now to improve the system or switch to one that works.”