TCC is asking Wrexham Council to start providing cash to families whose children should be receiving free school meals.
Currently Wrexham Council is providing a ‘grab and go’ system, where a packed lunch for children who would normally receive free school meals can be collected in person every day. However, take up of this means that less than 10% of eligible children have been receiving meals.
Many other local authorities have already decided to give direct cash payments to families, whilst in England a scheme provides supermarket vouchers.
Stephen Garthwaite, headteacher at Ygsol y Grango said “We know there are huge issues around stigma with vouchers, and we’d be very concerned about our parents being able to get to the bigger supermarkets from a more rural area like Rhosllanerchrugog. Many parents are already worried about making journeys out as they have young children or vulnerable adults at home, and they rightly want to adhere to social distancing rules. Vouchers would mean they would have to take longer journeys, and would create additional stress and risk for the poorest families. Cash would provide flexibility and choice, so that people can spend their money in their local shops as normal.”
TCC lead organiser Kay Polley said “Vouchers can only be used at specific supermarkets, so it could be very difficult for a lot of families to use them, unless they live right in the centre of Wrexham. Getting to a supermarket could mean using public transport which is very limited, or walking long distances. As around two thirds of children eligible for the vouchers live in single parent households, many people would have no choice but to take children shopping with them. Nobody should be placed at a greater risk of contracting coronavirus just because they are poor.
We believe the safest, most dignified, and practical response is to transfer cash directly to families so that people can buy food for themselves.”
The voucher scheme currently being used by local authorities in England means vouchers can be spent at Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose, and M&S. Notably this does not include Aldi, Lidl, the Co-op, or any smaller or independent shops.