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Moray Council free school meal cash plan hailed

By Alan Beresford

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PLANS by Moray Council to pay school meal cash directly into parents' bank accounts has been hailed.

Education committee chairwoman Councillor Sonya Warren: direct payments "better and fairer".Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Education committee chairwoman Councillor Sonya Warren: direct payments "better and fairer".Picture: Daniel Forsyth

Scandal has erupted south of the border regarding to food hampers for youngsters entitled to free school meals during the current lockdown, with the quantity of food provided being slammed as amounting to far less than the £30 budget believed to have been allocated for each pack.

However, in Moray parents will received £23 pefortnightht for a primary school child and £24 pefortnightht for a secondary student.

Moray Council's education chairwoman Councillor Sonya Warren (Buckie) hailed the local authority's system as being much fairer.

She said: "I think it's a much better and for that matter fairer system than the hampers used in England.

"Parents and carers can decide how best to spend it in relation to the individual needs of their family, which is better value.

"Unlike the phase 1 lockdown in March, these payments will be going directly into bank accounts rather than the voucher system used then.

"Those who previously received free school meals and are still entitled will automatically get the payment. Any new person that now qualifies will be picked up automatically through claiming other benefits.

"If they haven't applied for benefits then they should speak to the money advice team at Moray Council."

Councillor Warren went on to say that one of the main reasons vouchers were discarded was that they proved to be "slightly restrictive" to some people, especially those living in rural areas or not close to the main supermarkets.

She added: "Giving the money directly to parents is one of the most cost effective ways of distributing the money, with no middle men or extra charges.

"It also allows them more choice and flexibility as to where they want to spend their money. If they are in the habit of going to the local supermarket or the local farm shop then they may continue to do this.

"This method helps folk whilst also retaining their dignity. Nearly all the parents are responsible and choose to buy good food for their children. It's a natural reaction to want the best for your children. This also helps to alleviate some of the stress and strain many families on benefits face.

"Time is also a factor too; vouchers have to be ordered and distributed etc whereas cash can just be transferred relatively speedily."

One of the controversial food packages supplied in England is thought to have contained food worth a little over £5 despite the company which supplied it being paid £30 a time for each pack.

Another package from a different firm was said to contain just a loaf of bread, three yoghurts, a tin of beans, tuna, two potatoes, four pieces of fruit and two slices of cheese.

The UK Minister for Children, Vicky Ford, tweeted: “One of the reasons why some schools have used food parcels rather than vouchers is that it helps keep them in touch with families.

“Very sadly during the pandemic there has been an increase in risk to some children. Do call @NSPCC If you are concerned about a child.”

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