‘Huge numbers’ of children in poverty are missing out on free school meals in England, a charity analysis has shown.
Figures from the Children’s Society shows more than six in 10 children in poverty are not getting a free school meal in 57 constituencies alone.
In some areas more than two-thirds of children in poverty miss out on free school meals.
The highest proportion of children in poverty missing out on free school meals are in the east, southeast, southwest and London. The joint top two constituencies are Horsham, and Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, at 69%, closely followed by Mitcham and Morden, and Arundel and South Downs at 68%.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of the Children’s Society, said: ‘It is shocking that huge numbers of children in poverty across the country 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 up and down the country 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.'
Around 700,000 of the 2.2 million school children living in poverty in England are not even entitled to free school meals – often because their parents work, regardless of how little they earn.
Unite/CPHVA Professional Officer Ros Godson said: ‘School nurses will not be surprised at this report as they see evidence of children too hungry to benefit from education.
‘The English government will shortly be considering changes to the provision of free school meals following the overhaul of the current benefit system, and there are huge concerns that many children, particularly those of working parents, will fall between the gaps. We will be responding when the proposals are published. CPHVA is part of the Children’s Food Campaign, which we will be promoting once it is launched.’
The Children’s Society’s Fair and Square campaign is calling on the government to make free school meals available to all children in poverty.