Free school meal vouchers are not getting through to parents leaving Cambridge families desperate for support.
At least 16 schools in Cambridge have reported problems with the free school meal voucher system brought in so children would normally get free school meals would not go hungry while being home schooled during the coronavirus outbreak.
One school told Daniel Zeichner MP that the vouchers they had requested are now 9 days late and they have had no response from the private company, Edenred, who are managing the system.
Schools say staff are getting up at 6am to try and log in before the system becomes overloaded; report error messages appearing; and families receiving voucher codes on different days despite orders being placed together.
In answer to a parliamentary question Mr Zeichner asked, he was told that £29 million worth of voucher codes had been redeemed nationwide over the last five weeks.
Each child is entitled to £15 voucher for each of the five weeks meaning £75 in total, showing that under 400,000 of the 1.3 million who are eligible are getting vouchers through Edenred.
Daniel Zeichner MP said: “The system is not working and it is time for the government to admit that. The system is overwhelmed and help isn’t getting through. School staff and parents are wasting huge amounts of time on what should be a simple administrative task. In addition some local supermarkets are not part of the nationwide scheme including the Co-op. We need the government to stop forcing schools to use Edenred and instead to allow them to make local arrangements and for these to be fully funded by the government. Otherwise children risk going hungry.”