To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many children registered for free school meals did not take up their entitlement in 2019-20.
13 October 2020
The provision of free school meals, to children from out-of-work families or those on low incomes, is of the utmost importance to this government. There are currently 1.4 million pupils eligible for and claiming a free, nutritious school meal, saving families more than £400 per year.
We do not routinely collect information on the proportion of pupils that would be entitled to a free school meal but do not make a claim. Our last estimate is that take-up is around 89% of those who are entitled. Take-up may currently be higher as during the COVID-19 outbreak we are temporarily extending free school meal eligibility to include some children of groups who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF). Guidance on the NRPF extension is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance/guidance-for-the-temporary-extension-of-free-school-meals-eligibility-to-nrpf-groups.
Whilst take-up of free school meals is strong, we want to make sure as many eligible pupils as possible are claiming their free school meals, and to make it as simple as possible for schools and local authorities to determine eligibility. To support this we provide an Eligibility Checking System to make the checking process as quick and straightforward as possible for schools and local authorities. We have also developed a model registration form to help schools encourage parents to sign up for free school meals and provide guidance to Jobcentre Plus advisers so that they can make Universal Credit recipients aware that they may also be entitled to wider benefits, including free school meals.
We are grateful for the hard work that school staff undertake throughout the school year to deliver this provision locally for the families that are eligible for free meals. During the COVID-19 outbreak, we are especially appreciative of the actions schools have taken to continue free school meal provision in challenging circumstances.