COVID-19 | Free School Meals National Voucher Scheme

This article has been brought to you by Slough Borough Council's Systems and School Support Manager, Paul Brotherton, for the attention of Headteachers, Business Managers and Free School Meal administrators.

DfE’s national voucher scheme re-opened on the 18th January 2021. The scheme will be administered by Edenred. For further guidance from the DfE on FSM during this period of lockdown please see covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance-for-schools

Vouchers should only be ordered from the national voucher scheme for term time periods.

National Voucher Scheme

Vouchers will only be available through the national voucher scheme from the week commencing 18 January, however, any support provided since 4 January 2021 through lunch parcels or locally arranged vouchers can be claimed back from DfE.

The steps schools take during this national lockdown period will depend on local circumstances. Schools are free to decide the best approach for their free school meal pupils. They can provide lunch parcels, locally arranged vouchers, or they can use the national voucher scheme which will re-opened on Monday 18 January.

DfE will provide £3.50 top-up funding per eligible pupil per week for school providing lunch parcels and up to £15 per eligible child per week for vouchers. This is in addition to the usual funding that schools receive for benefits-related free school meals. 

Extra costs incurred will be claimed retrospectively by schools, all valid claims will be paid in full. Further guidance from DfE will be available in due course.

How to Order Vouchers Through Edenred

Schools will receive an email from the DfE supplier Edenred by 14 January, advising you how to either reset your password or activate your account for the first time.

Once you have done this, you will receive an email confirming when you can begin to order vouchers during the week commencing 18 January.

You can then:

  • Order a single voucher to cover multiple weeks, for example, a £30 voucher to cover one eligible child over 2 weeks
  • Order a single voucher to cover more than one eligible child within the same household, for example, £60 to support 2 eligible children over 2 weeks
  • Set a weekly £15 rolling voucher, up to the week commencing 8 February

To ensure that vouchers are processed in a timely manner, schools should submit one spreadsheet to order eCodes for all eligible families wherever possible.

Once you have confirmed the voucher’s value, you can either:

  • Send an eCode directly to the parent or carers of the pupils(s) eligible for free school meals - they will need to choose an eGift card from a range of supermarkets
  • Select an eGift card on the parent or carer’s behalf, and print and post the eGift card to them
  • Select an eGift card on the parent or carer’s behalf, print the eGift card and arrange for families to collect it or deliver it to them in person

Sending eCodes to Families

You can send a redemption eCode from the Edenred system directly to the parent or carers of the pupil(s) eligible for free school meals. They should receive the eCode and instructions on how to use this to create an eGift card within 4 days.

You should only consider this approach if the family receiving the support has a working email account which they can access. Edenred will monitor where emails have not been successfully delivered to families, and they will contact the affected schools directly.

We will keep you posted with any further updates of guidance as soon as and when the DfE make this available. If you should have any further questions or queries please do not hesitate to contact us.