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Claims vouchers in place of free school meals during Covid-19 coronavirus crisis are causing problems for parents

By Louise Glen

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Free school meals have been replaced with vouchers to parents during the coronavirus crisis.
Free school meals have been replaced with vouchers to parents during the coronavirus crisis.

Highland Council has introduced a voucher scheme to replace free school meals while schools are closed.

One mum-of-three from Smithton in Inverness says being provided with vouchers rather than cash is forcing her to make risky trips out for supplies.

Eilidh – she did not want to give her full name – said: “I have three hungry children and I get the equivalent of £45 a week in vouchers to spend. But the problem is one of my children needs to be shielded at all times.

“With only one person (per household) being allowed in shops and the fact I cannot spend the vouchers online, they are making life very difficult for some of us.

“Having to struggle to get out of the house, then having to use the bus, to spend the vouchers in the few shops where they are accepted means that I am at a higher risk of catching coronavirus.”

Inverness Ness-side councillor Ron MacWilliam has previously called for the vouchers to be replaced with direct cash payments to parents.

Councillor Ron MacWilliam.
Councillor Ron MacWilliam.

“It is the height of arrogance that the council administration, or whoever it is that’s making these decisions, cannot recognise the obvious flaws and retreat from this intransigent position,” he said.

“What matters is that support gets out there to families and without further delay.

“I know of families who are collecting these vouchers with no practical means of spending them.”

The council’s budget leader, Councillor Alister Mackinnon, however, said: “Using feedback from families and staff our officers have worked very hard to extend the ways in which families can redeem their free school meals vouchers with local retailers Co-op, the Post Office and Scotmid across the region.”

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