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Children in North Yorkshire missing out on free school meals
HUNDREDS of children at North Yorkshire schools are missing out on free meals at lunchtime, according to a children’s charity.
A report by the Children’s Society shows that about 1,500 eligible youngsters are not getting the free school meals they are entitled to.
The figures represent about 42 per cent of those eligible in both constituencies, placing them among some of the worst-affected areas in the region. In York, there are 140 children, or 14 per cent, not on free meals when they should be.
The Children’s Society is calling on the Government to change the rules. Currently, children in England are eligible for free school meals if their parents receive a benefit payment – such as income support or Jobseeker’s Allowance – or receive child tax credit and have an annual income of no more than £16,190. However. many more youngsters fall below a different nationally defined poverty measure – having a family income less than 60 per cent of average wages. The Children’s Society say eligibility for free school meals should be brought into line with this.
Chief executive Matthew Reed said: “It is shocking that huge numbers of children in poverty in Yorkshire 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 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.”
In North Yorkshire 4,314 primary school children receive a free school meal – ten per cent of the total, while that figure in secondary schools is 2,955, or 13 per cent.
A county council spokeswoman said: “We provide fresh, locally sourced and nutritionally balanced meals cooked from scratch in our school kitchens every day. The council is therefore concerned that as many children as possible should benefit from these nutritious meals and that no child who is entitled to one should miss out on a free school meal. The county council provides a range of information to parents about eligibility for free school meals.
“We inform parents through our guide to parents about schooling and through the county-council website. Parents who think they might be eligible to apply for a free school meal are also reminded to apply on the common application form for a school place.
“We also send out mailshots to schools urging them to make parents aware that their child might be entitled to a free school meal.”