Fair and Square campaign victory
Fantastic news for families across the country and for our Fair and Square campaign supporters. The government has announced today that all infant school pupils - children in reception, and years 1 and 2 - will receive a free school meal from September 2014.
This will help many hard pressed families across the country who will be saving up to £400 a year per child. It is also great for the young children currently missing out who will now be able to get a hot and healthy school lunch.
Our Fair and Square campaign galvanised tens of thousands of people to call for all children in poverty to be able to get free school meals. Today’s announcement is a great success for the campaign and we owe a real thank you to all those who have supported the campaign.
1.4 million more children will get a free school meal
This extension of free school meals is a real step forward in tackling child poverty in this country. It means that around 1.4 million more children will be able to get a free school meal, 200,000 of whom are living in poverty.
We estimate that this support will lift an additional 25,000 school children out of poverty by saving families around £400 per year per child. It will also mean that asylum seeking children in infant school in families who are now living on very low levels of support will now get a hot meal every day.
The government estimates investing £600 million to bring this policy in for September 2014. It is great to see the government recognising the difficulties choices families, including those with working parents, have to make including having to choose between feeding their families or heating their homes.
500,000 children in poverty will still miss out
Alongside all children in infant school getting free school meals, the government has announced that free school meals will also be extended to disadvantaged students in further education and sixth form colleges. Currently only disadvantaged students aged 16-18 in sixth form colleges attached to schools are eligible – excluding those in other further education colleges.
Despite this historic achievement, it is important that the momentum on this issue continues. Even after this change 500,000 children in poverty will not be entitled to receive a free school meal.
We are still waiting for a decision from government on free school meals entitlement criteria for when the new benefit system - Universal Credit - is introduced. It is key that the government makes sure that when this is introduced, all children living in poverty, including those in junior and secondary schools, can get free school meals.
We know what we can achieve when we act together, so join our campaign today.