"Every child in Nottm entitled to Free School meals should get them" says local MP

Posted on 17 March 2016 (Permalink)

“In Nottingham, 495 fewer children registered for free school meals compared to last year. Not only do these deserving children risk going without a decent meal each day, it also means that their schools missed on £900,000 in Pupil Premium revenue. This is why I have been working closely with the City Council to change our local system and move to automatically register all eligible children. This registration system has been successfully pioneered in Birkenhead by Frank Field MP and having spoken to him I am pursuing it in Nottingham” said Graham Allen MP

Currently, children from low-income families might be eligible for free school meals but not receive them because they are not registered as it is up to each parents to register their children for those free school meals. Parents often do not realise that their children would be entitled to them and thus it is estimated that up to 160,000 children in England were eligible but not registered.[1]

 That is another 250 unnecessarily hungry children in my  constituency.

Not being registered not only means the child loses meals it also means that the school loses Pupil Premium funding as for every child who is registered to receive them the school is entitled up to £1,320 each year in Pupil Premium funding to support their education. Over a quarter of a million precious £pounds lost to education in my area.

The All Parliamentary Group on Hunger have come up with solution to this problem which has been now successfully tested by a few Local Authorities. Their solution lies in using Housing Benefit records to identify families whose children are eligible, but not registered to receive free school meals. Once identified, each family is informed by the Local Authority that their child has automatically been signed up to receive free school meals, with no need to fil any forms unless they wish to opt out of entitlement.

This innovative work delivers a win-win situation, at no extra cost to Local Authorities, in that children need not suffer hunger and their schools receive vital additional funding towards their education.

“I have been inspired by this system and have been trying to persuade the City Council to adopt it. They have now established a project group which is aiming to implement two systems by October 2016 which will ensure that all children in Nottingham don’t go hungry at school. Firstly, the Council is hoping to amend the application system so the Council automatically checks which benefits a parent is in receipt of when they apply online for a school place, to determine whether the child will receive free school meals or not. Secondly, they are looking into implementing the system which automatically registers eligible children using housing benefit records.

I am delighted that the City Council is determined to follow the example of other Local Authorities and thus make sure that every single child in Nottingham who is entitled a free lunch at school will receive it. It simply doesn’t make sense that a simple administrative obstacle stops children to have what for some is, the only warm meal they have during the entire day.

This is exactly the type of simple improvements, which help us to fight the austerity measures force on us by the Tory government. I will continue to follow the progress of the project group at the City Council and hope that they will deliver their promise of having those systems in place by October. I want to see every child  and school in my patch receive what they are entitled to" added Graham

"Graham enjoyed a lovely school dinner with children at Crabtree Primary, Bulwell recently"



Note for the editor:

1. A route map to ending hunger as we know it in the United Kingdom, Feeding Britain in 2015-16 report. Published by APPG on Hunger