Coronavirus: DfE warning over free school meals scam


The Department for Education has issued a warning over a scam email being sent to parents of children eligible for free school meals amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Parents of children eligible for free school meals have been targeted. Picture: Adobe Stock
Parents of children eligible for free school meals have been targeted. Picture: Adobe Stock

The government has shared details of an email received by a number of parents asking them to share their bank details with the sender.

According to DfE, the email reads: “As schools will be closing, if you’re entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we’ll make sure you’re supported”.

In a warning to parents, DfE said: “We can confirm that this is a scam email and is not official. We urge parents that if you receive any emails like this, please do not respond, and delete it immediately.”

Local authorities across the UK including in Merseyside, Cambridgeshire and Dorset have also received reports of the fraudulent email from parents.

Charity Action Fraud has reported a 400 per cent increase in coronavirus-related scams in March, with victim losses totalling almost £970,000.

The warning comes days after schools across the UK closed to most pupils except vulnerable children and those of key workers.

The government has issued advice for head teachers on how to provide free school meals amid closures due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Schools are recommended to speak to in-house catering teams or providers to see if arrangements can be made to prepare meals or food parcels could be delivered to, or collected by families.

Schools that are unable to provide meals through their catering team are advised to use other local initiatives such as a “local school acting as a community hub, or a local charity” or provide families with supermarket vouchers with costs covered by DfE.

“We are currently developing a national approach to providing support through supermarket and shop vouchers. We will provide further details shortly,” DfE guidance states.

It adds that in the meantime schools that are unable to offer meals through catering providers should buy e-vouchers of gift cards for major supermarkets or local shops.

“Where possible they should be restricted for use against age-related products,” the guidance states.

“You should check which pupils are eligible and currently in receipt of free school meals, and vouchers should be made available to the parent or the adult with caring responsibility for that child.”

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