Million more pupils could have free school meals

More than a million additional school children could receive free school meals (FSM) and be entitled to extra support funding if the scheme was simplified and extended to more families.

The LGA said automatic enrolment should be introduced and eligibility expanded to include all children whose parents are undocumented or have no recourse to public funds. These were among the recommendations contained in the National Food Strategy written by businessman and campaigner Henry Dimbleby.

It comes ahead of the Government’s food strategy white paper, which aims to improve access to healthy food. The LGA is also calling for a review of the £7,400 income threshold for FSM, to reach more children at risk of experiencing food poverty.

Parents currently have to apply to their local authority, or via their child’s academy school, to claim. Government estimates indicate that automatic enrolment could capture the 11 per cent of eligible school children who have not yet taken up the offer.

This would generate tens of millions of pounds in extra pupil premium funding, which is allocated based on the number of FSM claims per school.

A further 1.1 million children could benefit from FSM if the income threshold is changed and immigration limitations permanently lifted.

Cllr Shaun Davies, Chair of the LGA’s Resources Board, said: “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.”

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