Archbishop backs free school meals call

The Archbishop of York has come out in support of calls for all children living in poverty to receive a free school meal.

The Children's Society warned in a report this week that around 120,000 families will no longer be able to claim a free school meal for their children because of changes to the welfare system.

The charity’s Fair and Square report said that the introduction of a single Universal Credit means that many of the current benefits used to assess who is entitled to free school meals, such as Job Seekers’ Allowance and Working Tax Credit, will be scrapped.

Free school meals are given to children in households working less than 16 hours a week and earning less than £7,500 a year.

Research by the charity found that 91 per cent of UK adults believe that all children living in poverty should receive free school meals.

Asked about their child's main meal in the day, 29% of parents said 'lunch'.

However, the report warns that families that work more hours would reach a “cliff edge” where the cost of losing the free school meal would exceed the benefit of working longer hours.

Six in 10 parents said that free school meal eligibility had a direct impact on their decision to move back into work or take on extra hours.

Dr John Sentamu welcomed the report.

"Nutritional meals are vital for all low income families to ensure that children living in poverty get a healthy lunch at school, without burdening an overstretched family budget," he said.

Children's Society campaign for childhood director, Elaine Hindal, said: “We have shown that there are literally hundreds of thousands of children living below the poverty line who aren’t getting a free school meal. There is no reasonable defence for this policy failure.

“The Government has an unique opportunity to extend free school meals to all low-income working families, so that no child living in poverty misses out. This would be in line with the government’s aim to make work pay by paving the way for many families to return to employment and help lift them out of poverty.”

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