Children missing out on free school meals

Around 500 children in poverty in the High Peak are missing out on free school meals, according to a leading children’s charity.

Research carried out by the Children’s Society found that 27 per cent of children in poverty in the borough were not getting a free school meal. Around 400 children (35 per cent) in poverty in the Derbyshire Dales are also missing out, with a total of almost 35,000 children in poverty across the East Midlands not getting free school meals.

The charity have now launched a Fair and Square campaign, calling on the government to make free school meals available to all children in poverty.

For some children, a free school lunch may be the only proper meal they get, the charity found. Across the country, for a third of children whose parents The Children’s Society spoke to, lunch was their main meal of the day.

For parents in poverty, finding the £370 a year needed for each child’s school meal often means struggling to provide their children with the basics, including buying them shoes for school and heating the home.

Many low-income families are unable to get free school meals simply because their parents are working – no matter how little they earn.

The Children’s Society Chief Executive Matthew Reed said: “It is shocking that huge numbers of children in poverty in the East Midlands are missing out on a free school meal. Every child in poverty should be entitled to this vital support.

“We know from the families we work with up and down the country that parents are struggling to make ends meet.

“Right now, the government is reconsidering which children will be entitled to get free school meals.

“We urge the government to take this opportunity to make sure all children in poverty can get a free school meal.”

The charity, in collaboration with 38 Degrees, has already gathered more than 90,000 signatures in support of the campaign. With the introduction of changes to the benefit system under Universal Credit, the government now has the opportunity to make this happen, the charity said.

Derbyshire County Council recently launched their Quids In campaign, encouraging people to check if they were eligible to claim free school meals.

Anyone who receives benefits including Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, the guarantee element of the State Pension Credit, support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 or Child Tax Credit could be eligible for free school meals.

To find out more, see the county council’s website at www.derbyshire.gov.uk.