Changes to eligibility criteria, which come into force next month, will mean some local children will miss out on free school meals say Lib Dem Councillors in B&NES. They have called for the current rules to be maintained so that more children from poorer families can benefit.
At present, under interim arrangements which date from 2013, all children whose parents receive Universal Credit get a free school meal. From next month an additional means test will apply, meaning fewer local children will be eligible. The Children’s Society estimates that the change will affect 1 million children in England; 3,900 in B&NES.
Councillor Alison Millar (Bathavon North), B&NES Lib Dem spokesperson for Children and Young People, commented:
“Food is a real issue for some families. Sadly, we live in a society where many people have to rely on food banks or struggle with tight budgets. For some children, their free school meal may be their only proper meal.
“The Lib Dems want more local children from poorer families to receive a free school meal. We don’t want children to miss out on the well-documented academic and health benefits which come with a healthy lunch.
“We oppose the change in eligibility criteria and the introduction of a means test, but we do welcome local efforts to encourage more families to take up meals to which they are entitled.”
Lib Dem Group Leader, Councillor Dine Romero (Southdown), added:
“One of the Lib Dems’ achievements in the coalition government was the introduction of free school meals for all 5 to 7 year olds. The Lib Dems would now go further and have proposed that all primary school children should receive a free school meal.”
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