A step in the right direction but more action needed on free school meals

Opposition Education spokesperson Cllr Jack Abbott has welcomed the news that Suffolk County Council, Ipswich Borough Council, Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils have worked together in order to increase the number of children receiving free school meals (FSM).

SCC, IBC, Mid Suffolk and Babergh have announced that an estimated 800 families have been identified as being eligible for FSM. The increase in FSM take-up is welcomed on two fronts. First, the number of children going hungry or without access to a nutritious hot meal is decreased and, secondly, FSM is a trigger for Pupil Premium funding for schools. This means schools are able to access extra funding that is to be spent supporting those children to increase their educational outcomes.

The news comes just two months after Conservative MPs voted against a Labour motion in the House of Commons looking to protect those on Free School Meals from cuts to Universal Credit.

In March 2018 Cllr Abbott raised his concerns that children and schools in Suffolk were missing out on much needed food and funding and has led the fight to ensure this issue has been taken seriously.

Cllr Abbott said; “I’m pleased that Suffolk County Council is finally responding to an issue I highlighted back in March and clearly it is welcome that families and schools may now benefit from this collaborative work.

“However, it is worrying that they have not been routinely identifying those who are eligible for free school meals and this means children have been overlooked and schools have lost out on potential income for some time.

“If the County Council can quickly identify 800 families, then it is clear that there are many more hard-to-reach families are out there. The Council must now work proactively to absolutely ensure that everyone who is eligible is identified and can access free school meals.”

“This work is a step in the right direction but it must now be extended across all parts of Suffolk by engaging with the Anglia Revenues Partnership (Forest Heath, St Edmundsbury, Waveney and Suffolk Coastal), to ensure that no eligible child in Suffolk misses out on a free school meal and no school loses out on extra funding.”

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