More facts backing the free school meals plan

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This week’s Islington Tribune draws attention to data suggesting that more than 2000 Islington schoolchildren from families living beneath the poverty line are not claiming free school meals despite being eligible for them.

Have a look at the figures here on the Guardian’s data blog. There is an 11% gap between those taking free school meals and those in low income households.

Why aren’t children from the most deprived backgrounds taking up the free school meal benefits? Surely this discrepancy must be caused by people simply being unaware of what they are entitled to. It’s also possible that the stigma of having to identify your family as amongst the poorest in the community is stopping pupils from getting these meals.

This research provides further justification, I feel, for Islington Labour’s decision to push for free school meals for all in the borough’s primary schools. Such a system will be much simpler to administer and will hopefully remove any ‘shame factor’ from school meal provision.

Looking at the data it appears that there are very few local authorities with gaps between free school meal take-up and free school meal entitlement of less than 5%. Many hover around 10% and some are much higher.

Targeted benefits cannot always be relied upon to hit the bullseye.

Captain Jako

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2 Responses to “More facts backing the free school meals plan”

  1. alunephraim Says:

    Stigma is a definate issue; probably the main one in some areas.

  2. manofkent86 Says:

    The application for these free meals was often complex and required parents to submit documents they considered private and often difficult to obtain. In my experience many who did not apply were daunted by this aspect of it. Kent and Medway councils are now trialling a scheme whereby all that is required from the parents is a National Insurance number and then the administration can be done automatically. I am unsure of the statistical change in the uptake but anecdotally I understand applications are up. I believe the new system is subject to a Data Protection legal challenge however.

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