Council urge for simplified free school meals process

More than a million additional school children could receive free school meals and be entitled to extra support funding if the sign-up process for the scheme was simplified and extended to more families.

The Local Government Association has argued that automatic enrolment for free school meals should be introduced and eligibility expanded to include all children who meet the income criteria, regardless of their parents’ circumstances.

The government’s soon-to-be published food strategy white paper will contain a range of new proposals on tackling inequalities in access to healthy food and improving the environmental and public health impact of our national food supply.

Automatic enrolling of school children who are eligible for free school meals and expanding its criteria were among the recommendations in the National Food Strategy, which the LGA is calling on the government to include in the upcoming white paper.

In addition to this, council leaders suggest the government review the current £7,400 income threshold for free school meals, which has remained unchanged since its introduction in 2018, in order to reach more children who are on the cusp of experiencing food poverty as household budgets are squeezed by rising prices and inflation. A further 1.1 million children could benefit from free school meals if the income threshold is changed and immigration limitations on who is eligible are lifted on a permanent basis.

Shaun Davies, chair of the LGA’s Resources Board, said: “Rising food, fuel and other costs affect everybody, but particularly low-income households with children who rely on extra support to make ends meet. Given these pressures, it is absolutely essential that all those who are eligible can get the help they need, including access to free school meals, at a time when we know the price of food and the general cost of living are spiralling.

“Streamlining and removing the red tape in the applications process, so that councils get given the information they need, is vital if we are to ensure no child misses out on a healthy meal. The government should also urgently look to raise the earnings threshold and permanently extend the criteria to those who are currently not eligible due to immigration status, including undocumented parents and those who are not able to access public funds, so that no child goes hungry.”

Event Diary

This year, Total Telecom’s Connected Britain is celebrating its 10th anniversary, marking a decade of networking, innovation, and collaboration. The conference is now the UK’s largest digital economy event, set to welcome over 7,500 delegates from the telecoms industry and beyond to discuss the hottest topics at ExCel London on September 11–12. 

DTX brings together creative minds and technology practitioners with the tools needed to drive change, enhance experiences and improve efficiencies across today’s organisations.

The countdown to the Environmental Services & Solutions Expo (ESS Expo) is on! As the UK’s largest environmental gathering, ESS Expo is set to take place on 11-12 September 2024 at the NEC, Birmingham.