By Tristan Harris Thursday 21 March 2013 Updated: 22/03 07:29
ABOUT a third of children across Redditch who could be receiving free school meals are going without because families do not know they are entitled to them.
Figures released by The Children’s Society show 1,000 children across the borough who are living in poverty are missing out on free meals.
The charity has now launched its Fair and Square campaign which calls on the Government to make free school meals automatically available to all children classed as living in poverty. Residents are also being urged to write to their MP about the issue or visit www.childrenssociety.org.uk/fairandsquare to sign the online petition.
According to Worcestershire County Council 1,974 pupils across the borough receive free school meals out of the 11,288 school children in Redditch.
But Matthew Reed, the charity’s chief executive, said it was not acceptable to have huge numbers of children missing out on the basic entitlement, when for some a free school meal may be the only time they eat properly during the day.
“Every child in poverty should be entitled to this vital support,” he said.
“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.”
MP Karen Lumley said free school meals had an ‘important role to play’ in addressing poverty and inequality.
“As a school governor myself, I have been a long-standing campaigner in ensuring we do more to break down the stigma attached to claiming free school meals and recently wrote to every school in Redditch encouraging them to claim for their free school meal entitlement.
“The Government’s move to universal credit aims to ensure that the criteria by which children in primary and secondary schools are entitled to free school meals are fair, simple and easily integrated in to the way that schools currently provide free school meals.”
Visit www.worcestershire.gov.uk/cms/school-information/school-free-meals.aspx for more information on how to apply for free school meals in Worcestershire.
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