VOUCHERS given to parents in place of free schools meals during the coronavirus pandemic should not be used to buy cigarettes or alcohol, it has been warned.

Powys County Council’s portfolio holder for education Councillor Phyl Davies said that “advice” has been issued as he answered a question put to him by Labour group leader Councillor Mathew Dorrance.

Cllr Dorrance had said he had been contacted by concerned parents that the voucher scheme was open to abuse, and asked the authority's cabinet to take action to stop the vouchers being used to buy cigarettes or alcohol.

Cllr Davies said: “The voucher email that is sent to parents does advise that the vouchers are to be used to purchase food only.

“Some of the supermarkets have restricted items lists that prohibit purchases of tobacco and alcohol, however not all.

“We will advise the voucher provider to request all supermarkets have these restrictions in place when using these vouchers.”

But Cllr Davies confirmed that the payment are made by electronic transfer to the parents bank account, although it says on the receipt that it is for free school meals.

“We can only advise that this allowance is used to purchase food,” said Cllr Davies.

After receiving the answer, Cllr Dorrance added:  “I know that the overwhelming majority of parents will do the right thing, but it is worrying that there are loopholes.

“I welcome the commitment to put in place actions which will lead to restrictions on the purchase of cigarettes and alcohol when using these vouchers.”