Following in-depth conversations with the Cabinet Office about their PPN notice (Supplier Relief due to Covid-19), they forwarded on our questions to the Department for Education. The Q&A can be found below.
The Department for Educations full guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance-for-schools
1) Does 02.20 apply to schools/Academies that are not in LA contracts and have single or multi-site contracts?
2) If the contract is signed by the LA but the contractor bills the school individually what is the situation?
We would propose that the LA (as contracting authority) should discuss arrangements with the school and the supplier.
3) If the schools are to pay how are they to be reimbursed?
The government will continue to provide schools with their expected funding, including funding to cover free school meals and universal infant free school meals, throughout this period of closure.
4) We are presuming that if LA pays this will come out of the proposed ’Hardship Fund’?
See answer to 3, above. We are continuing to provide schools with all their expected funding.
5) When it is suggested that bills should be based on the last three month trading is this just
a. PP free meals
b. UFISM free meals
c. All meals both paid and free
Schools should continue to make payments to food suppliers that are considered at risk in relation to the cost of free school meals and universal infant free school meals. It does not apply to the costs of meals usually purchased by parents for children who are not eligible for free school meals.
6) If has been suggested that the Government has classified all school catering staff as Public Workers and therefore should not be furloughed or made redundant although their schools might be closed. Is this the case?
If schools are making payments to suppliers under PPN 02/20 then staff covered by these continued payments cannot also be furloughed. If suppliers are not receiving full continued funding under PPN 02/20, then some staff may be eligible for furlough.
7. If contractors furlough staff it would appear that they can’t claim under 02.20. Is this correct?
Suppliers cannot furlough and receive PPN 02/20 payments for the same staff. They should initially seek payments under PPN 02/20 if applicable, and where this does not cover costs for all staff, they can seek to furlough. Any supplier found to have acted fraudulently by claiming under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (or other COVID-19 support schemes), for workers that are being paid under a public sector contract, may be excluded from future public contracts on grave professional misconduct grounds under regulation 57(8)(c) of the PCRs.
8) If schools reimburse contractors for food that is destroyed or given to food banks that can’t otherwise be used is this offset against PPN claim?
Schools should continue to pay suppliers who are at risk even where the service is suspended. This can help meet suppliers’ costs if food cannot be sold elsewhere.
9) Should schools be offering the vouchers to parents as an alternative to the meals provision which would otherwise still be available as a parental choice rather than maintaining service?
The decisions will be made by schools at a local level. We advise that schools should speak to their school catering team or provider to see if they can prepare meals or food parcels that could be delivered to or collected by families. Where this is not possible, we have created a national voucher scheme so that those children have an alternative way to receive free meals.
10) Should schools be refusing access to PP/UIFSM Families to collect meals from schools using social distancing as a reason and therefore reverting to Vouchers.
As above, the decisions will be made by schools at a local level. In the first instance, we have advised that schools should speak to their school catering team or provider to see if they can prepare meals or food parcels that could be delivered to or collected by families. We have provided guidance on social distancing to help schools arrange this safely.
11) Where vouchers are offered by schools in preference to the service which could still be offered by their provider who will fund both the voucher and the service provider for the service stood down by the school?
Government is meeting the costs of the voucher scheme through additional funding. The government will also continue to provide schools with their expected funding, including funding to cover free school meals and universal infant free school meals, throughout this period of closure. This will enable schools to make payments for suppliers who are at risk in line with PPN 02/20.
12) Should angry parents calling for the vouchers in preference to possible service provision be the determining factor in the move to vouchers. E.G. In a school with 45 PP FSM Entitlement, only 5 children have opted to take the service, with parents demanding the vouchers, which option should be given?
As above, the decisions will be made by schools at a local level, and they are best placed to do this.
13) Should Local Authorities with a service contract in place for all schools be advertising the voucher scheme in this way: Schools now also have the option to provide a supermarket voucher to families instead of food, thanks to a centrally-funded national scheme developed by the Department for Education.
We have advised that schools should speak to their school catering team or provider to see if they can prepare meals or food parcels that could be delivered to or collected by families. We have also created the national voucher scheme as an alternative.
14) Should Local Authorities accept a Furlough Scheme by their service providers as a means of saving cost, reducing their budgetary charges and using the Job retention Scheme for catering Staff who should under the terms of PPN remain engaged and ready for service or redeployment as required?
In the first instance, public bodies should apply PPN 02/20 where the supplier is considered to be at risk.
15) Are Sixth Form and HE/FE Colleges expected to comply with the PPN Notice?
Sixth Form and HE/FE Colleges that are “contracting authorities” (under Public Contracts Regulations 2015) are in-scope of the PPN.