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Research shows hundreds of thousands of kids might be missing out on free school meals

Callum Jones

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| Last updated 

Research shows hundreds of thousands of kids might be missing out on free school meals

Featured Image Credit: Adrian Sherratt / Colin McPherson / Alamy

New analysis has revealed that over 230,000 children in England are missing out on free school meals that they are entitled to.

According to new analysis done by the Liberal Democrats, up to 234,500 children who meet the criteria for free school meals are missing out because their parents/guardians have not applied.

The new data comes as millions of Brits struggle with the cost of living crisis, and something like free school meals for their children would surely help.

The Liberal Democrats also found out that schools are missing out on Pupil Premium as well, which is worth up to £1,385 a year per pupil.

The fund is given to schools in England for each primary pupil and secondary pupil who has been eligible for free school meals at any point in the last six years.

Hundreds of thousands of children are missing out on free school meals. Credit: Nick Sinclair / Alamy Stock Photo
Hundreds of thousands of children are missing out on free school meals. Credit: Nick Sinclair / Alamy Stock Photo

According to the government, in January 2022, about 1.9 million pupils were registered for free school meals with a tak-eup of around 89 percent.

That means that more than one in ten children who meet the criteria are not benefiting from the free meals.

As per The Guardian, Zoe McIntyre, project manager of Children’s Right2Food, suggested that an auto enroll option should be considered to up the numbers.

She said: "This would be as simple as shifting to an ‘opt-in’ automated process to make sure every child entitled to a free school meals can access one.

"Auto-registration should go hand in hand with increasing eligibility so that the 800,000 children in poverty who are currently excluded from accessing free school meals are able to benefit from a healthy, nutritious meal at school."

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The Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, Munira Wilson, added: "The cost-of-living crisis is having a devastating impact on child poverty and hunger.

"Yet thousands of children are suffering needlessly because their families don’t know that they are entitled to free school meals or that they need to apply for them.

"Government ministers are standing idly by while children go hungry, expecting them to learn on empty stomachs.

"Parents should not have to jump through additional hoops to ensure their children are well fed when the government already knows which families are entitled to free school meals."

Ministers have called on the UK government to do more. Credit: Nick Sinclair / Alamy Stock Photo
Ministers have called on the UK government to do more. Credit: Nick Sinclair / Alamy Stock Photo

So who meets the criteria for free school meals? Well, it depends whereabouts in the UK you are.

Scotland and Wales have committed to rolling out the benefit for all primary school children, though this hasn't rolled out just yet.

In Scotland, free meals are available to all children between reception and year five, with Wales currently only seeing reception pupils get the benefit.

In England, all children in reception, year one and year two can get a free school meal.

Whether children qualify for the benefit after that depends on your household's income and whether you claim certain benefits.

The full criteria can be found on the gov.uk website here.

Topics: News, Food and Drink

Callum Jones
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