Free School Meals: No Recourse to Public Funds

Education – in the House of Commons on 23rd November 2020.

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Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Labour, Bermondsey and Old Southwark

What progress the Government have made on reviewing the extension of free school meals provision to children of families with no recourse to public funds.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

This Government are completely committed to free school meals, and no Government have ever been more generous with entitlements, extending eligibility to all infants and disadvantaged children in further education. But throughout the pandemic we also extended eligibility to groups with no recourse to public funds, and we continue to work across Government on longer-term eligibility for these families. Meanwhile, the extension of eligibility for free school meals remains.

Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Labour, Bermondsey and Old Southwark

It is Government policy that has forced overstretched schools, charities and councils like Southwark to pick up the pieces and pay the price of the hostile environment that has left over 100,000 with no recourse to support, according to the Children’s Society. The Minister says that there are cross-Government talks. What representations has she made to the Home Office to end this scandal and save schools from this huge, inappropriate burden when they are already struggling with covid?

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

I remind the hon. Member that our new £170 million covid winter grant scheme will directly target the hardest-to-help families and individuals, and also provide food for children in need of it over the holidays. Some families with no recourse to public funds do receive support from the Home Office as is provided for under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, and section 17 of the Children Act 1989 requires local authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area if they are in need, regardless of their immigration status.