The Education Funding Agency (EFA) has issued a new application form for providers to dish out free school meals cash to needy learners.

The government wants disadvantaged 16 to 18-year-olds to be fed by providers — and has earmarked funds to develop kitchen facilities — or through a credit or voucher scheme for outside caterers.

However, it conceded in April some learners may have to be given cash in “exceptional circumstances” that it listed at the time — and it also said there may be even more situations where learners were handed money.

The EFA’s new document last week was aimed at providers in this latter situation. It lays out how providers, from September, can give out the minimum £2.41 per meal for special, but undefined, reasons.

Piran Dhillon, Association of Colleges public affairs officer, said: “The conditions [for cash payments] set by EFA are challenging but allow some flexibility to colleges in how they deliver the meal entitlement.”

She added: “We are pleased EFA has taken on board concerns following visits to colleges, which have resulted in some improvements to the scheme.

“This has included a higher cost per meal (£2.41 rather than the £2 suggested initially) and acceptance there needs to be exceptions to the cashless transaction rule.”

Paul Warner, Association of Employment and Learning Providers director of employment and skills, said the new guidance reflected how “a great deal of training takes place away from institutions with catering facilities”.

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