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Guidance from Derbyshire County Council regarding school meals including free school meals

Thank you to all schools and school kitchens who are working hard to ensure that children and young people who are eligible for free school meals can continue to receive this. The guidance is intended to help schools with their enquiries regarding benefits related free school meals during the coronavirus public health emergency.

Meals for vulnerable children and children of key workers

Arrangements need to be made with your catering team (in house), or school catering provider to see if they can prepare meals for this group. For those schools who have identified Derbyshire Catering Services (DCS) as their preferred catering provider, a hot meal service will continue to be offered to all children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Eligible free school meals

Again speak to your school catering team (in house), or school catering provider to see if they can prepare meals for this group. DCS is also able to offer schools the opportunity to provide all free school meals (eligible) pupils with a meal.  This can take one of several forms:

  • packed lunches service - to be made available for parents or carers to collect from school
  • provision of a hot meals service in a school setting
  • catering food hamper. Following the recent success of the food boxes for free school meals eligible pupils over the easter period, DCS is extending this provision for schools who do not wish to use the supermarket voucher scheme. The cost of each food box ordered is £30 and contains 2 weeks of provisions for 1 child, which will be charged to your school on a monthly basis via your usual school meal charging method. The food box will provide store cupboard essentials and is based on providing the pupil with food that they would ordinarily receive if they were at school to include breakfast and lunch ingredients.

If you would like purchase hampers for your pupils, please visit the S4S Coronavirus/ school catering and FSM page and read the attached leaflet that provides you with the necessary information on how to order.

If you have any queries please contact either your operational catering manager or: 

Sara Jones, Catering Service Manager - Primary Schools
Mobile: 07748 624 247


Zak Goodwin, Catering Service Manager - Secondary Schools
Mobile: 07733 002 448

New eligibility for free school meals and Universal Credit

Lots of new families will become eligible for free school meals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these may only be eligible for a limited period.

In 2018 the Government made a fix to the legislation that covers free school meals so that it could work with Universal Credit (UC). This fix means that any child that becomes eligible for free school meals now until the rollout of UC is finished (originally 2022, but this may now be extended) retains their eligibility even if their income rises again. This eligibility remains in place until the child leaves school (either primary or secondary).  

Families who are claiming UC currently may only need to claim for a short period and probably won’t know they are eligible for free school meals or won’t think it is worth claiming - but they are potentially losing out on years of entitlement for their child(ren) and the additional funding for their school - £935pa - £1,320pa.

Applications for free school meals can be made through the Derbyshire County Council website and the team can also be called by schools and applicants on 01629 535743 or mobile 07812 475250 or 07812 475248.

Extension of free school meals eligibility to no recourse to public funds (NRPF) groups

The Department of Education has temporarily extended free school meal eligibility to include some children of groups who have no recourse to public funds. 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 also subject to a maximum household earnings threshold of £7,400 per annum.

Eligibility has also been extended 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.

The GOV.UK website has further information on this extension.

Supermarket vouchers

For those schools where the decision has been taken to issue supermarket vouchers these can be organised by either of the following methods:

1. If school uses Wonde or Edenred

You are now able to use an on line ordering and delivery service for supermarket vouchers for use at main supermarket chains (Edenred has now added Aldi to the list of voucher options). The Department of Education has made it clear that schools using a voucher scheme should use Edenred wherever possible. If it is not possible to use Edenred (for example if the school has been unable to or has had to delay registration during the initial launch of Edenred which was overwhelmed with demand and led to technical issues or delays in sending vouchers) then alternative providers such as Wonde or SVM Global may be used.

Where schools continue to use a provider that is not Edenred then it should be possible to reclaim the cost of these from the Department of Education where the reason for not using Edenred can be justified. Please refer to the GOV.UK guidance on free school meals for full details.

Attached to this page are the template DPIA's for Edenred and Wonde to support you with GDPR compliance. If you have any questions regarding this or any other data protection issue relating to the urgent situation please contact the GDPR for schools team, whether or not you receive this traded service.

Telephone: 01629 532888.

2. Local arrangement

Please refer to the GOV.UK guidance on free school meals for further details.

Can schools use volunteers to deliver free school meals? 

Schools should treat any list of free school meal recipients as highly sensitive. We aware of schools using PTA groups or community volunteers, to deliver meals where families have not chosen to collect. We would advise, wherever possible, that deliveries are undertaken by school staff members. This also allows school staff to ‘check in’ with any vulnerable families where there may be safeguarding concerns.

Can schools allow third parties to support families and children? 

If a school is approached by an independent third-party provider (for example a supermarket, charity or community group) offering to support vulnerable families, caution should be exercised as to what data is shared, and how. For example, if a school is approached by an organisation to distribute food or supplies to vulnerable families, as some supermarkets have recently done, they should act as an intermediary, delivering on behalf of the provider rather than sharing names, addresses and personal information with them.

3. Commercial companies

Gift cards may be ordered using commercial companies such as SVM Global who offer an online gift card ordering service, both electronic and plastic formats for Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and John Lewis (however, see the above advice regarding whether costs can be reclaimed).

SVM can be contacted on 01709303102 option 1, asking to speak to Emma Henderson or via email Please note other commercial companies may be offering similar services.

Regardless of the option schools decide to select, it is recommend that the value of the free school meal voucher is set at £15 per child per week (all pupil groups).

Also see