Edenred logo. Source: Wikipedia Edenred logo. Source: Wikipedia

Rightly lack of PPE and testing is making news, but amongst the other scandals is the school meals voucher programme, explains Helen Rutherford-Gregory

As so many in our local communities face dire uncertainty about when they’ll receive their next wage, feeding a family is becoming an ever increasingly daunting task.

The Department of Education has agreed that 1.3 million children who are eligible for free school meals will continue to receive that much-needed service. Until the Easter holidays, the burden fell on the schools to provide this and, in large, they were managing.

Now as the school holidays are upon us these school meals are to be provided via a £15 voucher that can be used in supermarkets. The contract for providing this digital voucher was given to private firm Edenred.

Edenred is an employee benefits company. One that provides childcare vouchers, incentive schemes and other voucher schemes such as the free vouchers you get when you sign up with SKY and the old Luncheon Voucher scheme. The total revenue of Edenred for 2019 was to €1,626 million with net profit totalling €312 million.

For such a huge revenue and profit, the UK operations of the business is tiny. The group’s digitisation campaign (85% digitisation by 2022, currently at 83%) means that they can run a massive volume of vouchers (and profit) with minimal human interaction and extremely low operating costs.

The voucher scheme has failed, monumentally, and parents are now trying desperately to access a system that was hurriedly rebuilt last weekend and continues to fail. Schools are unable to log into the system and Edenred is failing to respond to parents in crisis. They are left stranded. Ignored.

This mammoth operation was undertaken in such a profit-driven, cost-cutting way that now when it has crashed, there is no one available to deal with the fallout. Edenred has closed communication channels and has its head firmly in the sand.

A pre-prepared, scheduled, corporate jargon tweet was released on Monday 13th April at 9 AM.

“The secret of leadership is very simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow” – Seth Godin

It contained no acknowledgment of the impact this company is having on our most vulnerable children. No inkling that they recognise that they are complicit in the starvation of children who live below the poverty line. It was nonsense about leadership strategy with the hashtag, #mondaymotivation.

A frustrated parent commented below, “True, after last weeks delays and no response from them I haven’t received this week’s vouchers yet today either… to which someone responded – 

Probably true. Amazing coming from a company who can’t deliver free school meal vouchers to the vulnerable. Where’s the Leadership in all this. No apology, no statement from the top. Why take on something they knew they couldn’t deliver on. #MondayMotivaton.

Why is the Department of Education leaning on a company like Edenred during a time of national crisis? How many more essential services are being hacked up and sold off to these profiteers who will fail to deliver and leave the poorest in society to starve? The blame ultimately lies with our rotten government for legitimising these charlatans in their dehumanised business. Relying on these wealth generators who employ far too few people shows up the Conservative government’s secret motto, profit before people.

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