COVID-19 Schools and Education

Winter Food Voucher Scheme in Sutton

Background

Sutton Council will be providing a food support package for families whose children go to Sutton Schools and are eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) to ensure children don’t go hungry over the school winter holiday period.

Parents/carers of children that are registered for free school meals at their school do not need to apply - your school (whether in the London Borough of Sutton or in another Local Authority area) will distribute vouchers to eligible families directly. This will apply for the vast majority of pupils eligible for the voucher.

There will be some low income families who are eligible for a winter food voucher but do not currently attend a school. Further details of how you can apply is set out below. Please read the Frequently Asked Questions below carefully before applying for a voucher. 
 

What are Free School Meals?

Ordinarily, the Free School Meals (FSM) entitlement is only available during term time, not during school holidays. However, the Government has provided local authorities with a winter grant, part of which must be used to support families with access to food during School holidays. 

Free School Meals (FSM) means that eligible pupils receive free school dinners during term time, free of charge if they are registered. 

All pupils in reception, Year 1 and Year 2 receive the free school meals at school without an application process as part of the existing universal free school meals offer. (UFSM). But to receive the Winter food vouchers your child must be registered for free school meals (FSM) at the School they attend. You can apply on the Council’s website - see here for more information

For Free School Meals beyond Year 2 for low income families who receive benefits (Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance, Employment Support, Child Tax Credits, Universal Credit and some other benefits) you may be eligible for free school meals and can apply on the Council’s website - see here for more information. You will need to do this to be eligible to apply for the Winter food vouchers.

Support for Families over School holidays (February Half Term)

Sutton Council is working with Sutton Schools and education settings to distribute food vouchers to families who have pupils eligible for Free School Meals or Early Years Pupil Premium. Vouchers will be for £15 per eligible child (£3 a day for the 5 days of the February Half Term) and can be used in supermarkets chosen by parents/carers.

For the vast majority of eligible families, Schools will issue vouchers through the following platform: https://www.schoolvouchers.com/ automatically using the information they already hold on eligible families (parents/carers do not need to apply). 

There may be some families that have pre-school aged children who will not be able to receive vouchers from a school. In these cases we are asking them to complete a short application form to receive a voucher and the Local Authority will issue vouchers. 
 

Frequently Asked Questions

The questions and answers below are designed to answer the most common questions about the scheme. If you still have queries about the scheme having read the below you can contact education.sendfeedback@sutton.gov.uk

Who is eligible for the free school meals voucher scheme in Sutton over the February Half Term?

Sutton Council will provide food vouchers if:

  • You have a child attending a school in Sutton and they are registered for Free School Meals (FSM).

  • You have a child attending an Early Years Setting in Sutton for their Free Childcare entitlement and (i) the child is aged 2 and taking up their free entitlement OR (ii) the child is aged 3 or 4 and is registered for the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP)

  • You are resident in the London Borough of Sutton, would be eligible for free school meals under the current criteria but are currently electively home educating a child of statutory school age or are in Education Other than at School. 

How do I know if I am eligible?

Most parents/carers will know if they have registered for free school meals at their school (because their children will be receiving them). However if you are unsure you can check with your school if you have registered for free school meals with them or not. If you haven’t registered but think you might be eligible you can ask them about how to apply or alternatively visit see here for more information

If you are a parent/carer of a child aged 2 taking up the free childcare entitlement in Sutton you are automatically eligible and you can apply using this application form.  To check if you are eligible for this entitlement visit www.sutton.gov.uk/2yearolds.

If you are a parent/carer of a child aged 3 or 4 and attend a Sutton early years setting you can check with your setting to see if you are registered for the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP). 

EYPP is additional funding that is allocated to the setting for eligible families. If registered you will have given your early years setting permission to check your details alongside the agreement to take up the free childcare entitlement. 

Some families choose to home educate their children. Normally, this means that they cannot register for free school meals because the child is not in school. However,  we want to make sure that low income families that are electively home educating their children have access to this scheme. If this is the case you can apply using the application form included on this page.

If you are unsure if you are eligible or not please contact education.sendfeedback@sutton.gov.uk and will be pleased to support you. 

So my child is eligible - how can I get my food voucher?

Pupils who attend a Sutton school, and are eligible and have registered for Free School Meals will receive a voucher automatically from their school - parents/carers do not need to apply. The school will email or text the nominated parent/carer for each eligible pupil attending their school. 

We have asked schools to try and issue vouchers to all eligible children by 11 December. If your child attends a school and you have not received your voucher by then please contact your school. 

Families with children that are eligible but do not attend a school can apply for a food voucher by completing the Winter Food Voucher application form, to ensure that you can receive your voucher as soon as possible - please apply by 19th February 2021.

When do I need to make my application to the local authority? 

To ensure that you can receive a food voucher for the half term break, please apply before 19 February.

My child was eligible for a food voucher in the autumn half term but is not eligible over February Half Term based on the above criteria - why is this?

This will be the case for very few pupils. In the Autumn term we had to prioritise pupils who have a social worker, pupils who are eligible for short breaks and pupils living in emergency accommodation. These acted as ‘indicators of need’. Now that the LA has been provided with funding by the Government to provide vouchers for pupils eligible for Free School Meals (which are means tested), this is a more effective way of targeting support to those in financial hardship. It is possible that a very small number of pupils might have claimed for a voucher using the above criteria where they are no longer eligible under the following scheme.

If this is the case and you do need the support please let us know. The Council is committed to ensure that no family goes hungry over christmas. If you are struggling to provide food for your family please contact us on education.sendfeedback@sutton.gov.uk and we will route you through to someone that can help. Alternatively you can view details on the additional support available to Sutton residents as part of the winter scheme here or you can contact Sutton Food Bank via  https://sutton.foodbank.org.uk/ to find out alternative ways of accessing support.. 

I live in Sutton, my child is eligible for free school meals but attends a school outside of Sutton, will I receive a voucher?

Yes. It is our understanding that just as Sutton will be providing vouchers for pupils attending Sutton schools living outside of the Borough, so too will schools outside of the Borough be providing vouchers for Sutton resident pupils if you have registered for Free School Meals (FSM) at your child’s school. If this is not the case for whatever reason please contact us on education.sendfeedback@sutton.gov.uk.

I live in another Borough but my child attends a school in Sutton and is eligible for Free School Meals - can I apply?

You do not need to apply. Sutton schools will be automatically distributing vouchers to families on their school roll, who are registered for Free School Meals (FSM) regardless of where they live. Schools will be communicating with families directly on this.

My child is electively home educated, or in ‘Education Otherwise than at School’ (between placement or in tuition) - can I apply for a voucher?

Yes - please apply via the following application form.

My child is eligible for Free School Meals and attends a Nursery in a primary school in Sutton - will I receive a voucher?

Yes you will receive a voucher directly from your school in which the Nursery is based.

I would be eligible for free school meals but my child attends a non maintained or independent school - can I apply for a voucher?

Yes - please apply via the following application form.

I do not meet the criteria for food vouchers as stated above but I am in need of support over the christmas holidays, where can I go?

Information relating to the support available to all Sutton residents that may be struggling to provide enough food over christmas is available at www.sutton.gov.uk/covid-19

Those families that do not qualify for Free School Meals but feel they still need some help should contact the Council's Welfare Reform Team at welfarereform@sutton.gov.uk

What if I haven’t registered for free school meals with my child’s school/educational setting but want to now, in order to claim my voucher?

You can apply to register your child for free school meals via the Council’s website - see here for more information

What if I haven’t taken up my free childcare place for my 2 year old but I am eligible and I would like to claim a voucher?

If you have confirmed your eligibility via the Parent Portal and your child was eligible to take up a free childcare place this autumn term - please apply via the following application form.

If you are not sure you are eligible for a free childcare place for your 2 year old, you can check your eligibility online via the Parent Portal

Further information about the entitlement is available on the following page www.sutton.gov.uk/2yearolds 

I am not sure if my early years/ childcare setting has registered my child for EYPP- what should I do?

Please contact your early years provider before submitting an application form.

Support for families not eligible for the winter food voucher will be published on the following page - www.sutton.gov.uk/covid-19. Additionally, you can contact Sutton Food Bank via  https://sutton.foodbank.org.uk/ 

How much is the voucher worth?

Vouchers will be worth £3 a day for each day of the duration of the school holiday closure. For the Christmas holiday this will be 10 days (£30) and for February half term this will be 5 days (£15). 

We are currently only issuing vouchers for the Christmas holiday at this time.  Vouchers for the February half term will be issued nearer the time.

Where can I use the voucher?

The vouchers will be redeemable at Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Aldi, Morrisons, and Iceland. Parents/carers will receive a link from their school or LBS (depending on who is issuing the voucher) and the contact details they hold. Parents/carers will be asked to decide which supermarket they want their voucher to be used in. 

What is the process for using my voucher? 

If your child is eligible for a voucher (see above), you will either automatically receive a voucher directly from your school or you will receive one from LBS having applied through our application form. 

  1. Where a school has issued a voucher directly (for the vast majority of pupils), Parent/carers will receive an email or text message (based on the contact details schools hold) with a link to ‘redeem your voucher’.  Parents/guardians will need to create an account with  Schoolvouchers (very easy to do by clicking on the link) and will then be asked to select the supermarket you want to spend the voucher at (choice of Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Aldi, Morrisons, and Iceland). Once selected you will be given a pin or challenge code to be inputted into the ‘digital gift card section’ to confirm. Once the code is confirmed, your voucher will be ready to use.

  2. Where Sutton Council has issued a voucher, you will have chosen your supermarket via the application form. We will then send you a link with a pin or challenge code which once confirmed, your voucher will be ready to use. 

Your child(ren)’s school will be able to provide you with support and  information on how to claim the vouchers or you can visit https://help.schoolvouchers.com/hc/en-gb for FAQs including step by step guidance and videos. 

I have children in school that are eligible for Free School Meals and have children that do not attend school as they are too young, can I receive a voucher for them too?

If your child is taking up their free childcare entitlement for 2 year olds or is aged between 3 and 4 and is registered for Early Years Pupil Premium and attends Early Years setting in Sutton, you can apply for a Winter Food Voucher -please apply via the following application form.

Families with children that do not meet the criteria above can find out about the additional support available for families over the winter period on the Sutton Council website or you can contact Sutton Food Bank via  https://sutton.foodbank.org.uk/ 

My child attends a Nursery in a Sutton School and I meet the Free School Meals criteria can I apply for a food voucher?

Yes. Schools can issue vouchers for all pupils on their roll including Nursery age children. Your school will be able to issue a voucher for all of your children that attend the school Nursery. 

My child is eligible for the free childcare entitlement for 2 year olds but attends an out of borough setting, can I get a voucher?

No. Sutton council is only making food vouchers available for families accessing Sutton early years settings, so is unable to issue vouchers to families where they access their entitlement outside of the borough. However, some other local authorities may be offering a similar scheme, please contact them directly. 

Information relating to all the support available to all Sutton residents is available at www.sutton.gov.uk/covid-19 

Can I apply for more than one voucher? If so, do I need to complete the application form more than once?

Each child that is eligible can only receive one voucher. If you are applying for a food voucher via Sutton council you will be able to apply for all eligible children at the same time.

How long will my voucher take to be issued?

We have asked schools to try and issue vouchers to all eligible children by 12 February. If your child attends a school and you have not received your voucher by then please contact your school. 

The latest date that schools will be able to issue a voucher is 19 February 2021.

For all eligible children not receiving a voucher directly from school - we will try to issue the voucher as soon as possible after the application is received. Please allow 3-4 days from the date of making your application (times may vary depending on demand).

Can I claim vouchers for my child after the Christmas holidays has ended?

To ensure that you can receive a food voucher before Christmas please ensure that you have either contacted your school by 11 December or applied to the local authority  before 14 December. 

The deadline for schools and the local authority to issue food vouchers for the christmas period is 11 January 2021

Food vouchers will also be available for the February half term. These vouchers will be issued nearer the time using the same methodology described in these pages.

Will there be food vouchers available for the February half term?

Yes. Further information will be provided on how to access a food voucher in the new year on the councils website

Over the Autumn term, the Council allowed families with social workers, those eligible for short breaks and those in emergency housing to apply for vouchers - why has the criteria changed?

The scheme which ran over Autumn half term was put in place with very short notice (36 hours) so it was not possible to issue vouchers to pupils eligible for free school meals (a ‘means test’ which measures financial hardship). The above criteria were used as ‘indicators of need’ but they are not in themselves measures of financial hardship. Now that we have had more time to prepare and the Government is providing funding to Local Authorities to enable this support, there is less reason to use these criteria over Christmas and February half term. It should be noted that in practice, many families that would be eligible on the above criteria will also be eligible for free school meals. Where there are alternative routes of support available for these families.

I have a question not covered by any in this FAQ. What should I do? 

Please contact education.sendfeedback@sutton.gov.uk and we will do our best to help you as quickly as possible.