Solution needed for families without bank account to receive free school meal payment, says Lyttle

Alliance Education spokesperson Chris Lyttle MLA has said alternative methods of payment must be found for families unable to access free school meal payments during the coronavirus pandemic due to lack of a bank account.

Mr Lyttle, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, has raised the matter with Education Minister Peter Weir and questioned the Education Department on why the payments cannot be made by other methods to families with no bank account.

“The £7.7 million in free school meal payments made to families by the Education Authority since schools closed is a significant financial investment in the nutrition of children. It is, however, my understanding there are approximately 2,000 families for which the Education Authority does not hold bank account details.

“The referral of families not in receipt of this payment to the Department for Communities’ COVID-19 Helpline for food parcels is not an adequate alternative for access to these funds and has at least in some cases not resulted in the provision of food to families in need.

“The Minister for Education must urgently scope alternative methods of payment for these families to ensure no children have inadequate access to food during the Covid-19 school closure.”