Free School Meals

Department for Education written question – answered on 27th October 2020.

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Photo of Lord Taylor of Warwick Lord Taylor of Warwick Non-affiliated

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the analysis by the Food Foundation, published on 12 October, which found that 900,000 more children have been registered for free school meals.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The provision of free school meals, to children from out-of-work families or those on low incomes, is of the utmost importance to this government. The overall number and proportion of students who qualify for free school meals is published in the ‘Schools, pupils and their characteristics’ publication and its underlying data files. The most recent publication shows that there are around 1.4 million children eligible for and claiming a free nutritious school meal, saving families more than £400 per year. The 2020 publication is available at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/schools-pupils-and-their-characteristics-january-2020.

Take-up may currently be higher due to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and the economic circumstances. Additionally, we have provided a temporary extension to free school meal eligibility to include some children of groups who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF). Guidance on the NRPF extension is available at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance/guidance-for-the-temporary-extension-of-free-school-meals-eligibility-to-nrpf-groups.

We want to make sure as many eligible pupils as possible are claiming their free school meals, and to make it as simple as possible for schools and local authorities to determine eligibility. To support this we provide an Eligibility Checking System, to make the checking process as quick and straightforward as possible for schools and local authorities, and we have developed a model registration form to help schools encourage parents to sign up for free school meals. We also provide guidance to Jobcentre Plus advisers so that they can make Universal Credit recipients aware that they may also be entitled to wider benefits, including free school meals.

We are grateful for the hard work that school staff undertake throughout the school year to deliver this provision locally for the families that are eligible for free school meals. During the COVID-19 outbreak, we are especially appreciative of the actions schools have taken to continue free school meal provision in challenging circumstances.

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