School Meal Vouchers Arrive Too Late for Wandsworth Parent

Only sent a week after half-term holiday was over

Labour councillors protesting against council's school meals provision
Labour councillors protesting against council's school meals provision

November 16, 2020

A Wandsworth parent did not receive food vouchers designed to prevent vulnerable children from going hungry over the half-term until a week after the holiday was over.

An email seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service showed the parent only received £15 worth of Sainsbury’s vouchers on 5 November, a week after the half-term holiday ended.

The parent, who did not wish to be named, said they were not told by their social worker or the council that they were entitled to the vouchers.

“I found out from watching the news. Wandsworth Council never gave me any knowledge of the scheme,” they said.

They applied during the half-term break on Tuesday 27 October and were told they would receive the vouchers by Thursday 29 October. However, they did not come through until a week later.

A spokesperson for Wandsworth Council said, “Unlike many councils up and down the country, here in Wandsworth we did introduce an emergency food voucher scheme over the half term holiday which was specifically targeted at the borough’s most vulnerable and needy children.

“Hundreds of children were supported by the scheme which was widely advertised on social media, in local papers and on the council’s website as well as via direct contact between families and social workers. We are now looking to implement another scheme to cover vulnerable children and families over the Christmas school holiday.

“Because we haven’t been told the identity of the person who’s contacted the newspaper we can’t check our records for what contact we had with them and when, but if the voucher arrived late for any reason then we would obviously wish to apologise for that.”

During the half-term break opposition Labour councillors in the borough argued that the council did not go far enough because the vouchers were only available to children who have a social worker or are receiving support from the borough’s children’s services department.

They protested outside Wandsworth Council with empty paper plates and set up a petition which has received more than 1,000 signatures.

Deputy Labour Leader, cllr Kemi Akinola told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that lots of parents expressed concern on social media that they didn’t know how to get hold of the vouchers.

“It’s just one week, it’s a very short period of time, if you’re going to put something like that in place you need to have the system in place,” she said.

She hopes the plan for the Christmas holidays will be clearer.

“We can’t wait until the last week of the school term for the scheme to be announced and then expect teachers, who are already under a lot of stress, to somehow be able to deliver the vouchers and scheme to these children.”

Wandsworth Council has reiterated that it was the first local authority in the country to get its support scheme up and running, and says it is taking the necessary steps to support its most vulnerable children during the school holidays.

Sian Bayley - Local Democracy Reporter