Hull City Council are calling on the government to extend Free School Meals.
Hull City Council are calling on the government to extend Free School Meals.

Hull City Council Leader calls on Education Secretary to extend Free School Meals

The leader of Hull City Council, Councillor Mike Ross, has written to the Secretary of State for Education Gillian Keegan to call on the government to increase the number of pupils eligible for Free School Meals.

Councillor Ross has written the letter on behalf of the council asking the government to extend Free School Meals provision in light of the cost-of-living crisis.

In Hull, 33% of its pupils receive Free School Meals, well above the national average of 22.5%. Since 2018, the numbers of those eligible for Free School Meals in Hull has risen from 8,800 to 14,500. During this time, the eligibility threshold has not risen, despite the rising cost of living.

The council is calling on the government to expand Free School Meal eligibility to all households that are in receipt of Universal Credit, as well as automatically enrol eligible students on the Free School Meals programme.

In the letter, Councillor Ross sets out three requests to the government:

  • Extend the eligibility for Free School Meals to all families who are in receipt of Universal Credit – this would benefit approximately an extra 11% of pupils in Hull and their families.
  • Introduce automatic enrolment for pupils currently entitled to Free School Meals – removing the need to register for Free School Meals would increase funding provided to schools, which is allocated based on the number of children who are currently receiving Free School Meals. It would also ensure all students get the meals they are entitled to.
  • Consider implementation of the recommendation made in the government-commissioned National Food Strategyfor the earnings threshold for eligibility to be increased from £7,500 to £20,000 per year. This threshold was suggested to try and capture as many children at risk of food poverty as possible and would clearly have a significant impact for families in Hull.

Councillor Ross says: “We know that during the cost of living crisis families are having to make fraught decisions about how they spend the money available to them. This is the sort of situation that has not faced the nation in a considerable amount of time. This would be a simple, but effective, way the government could help thousands and thousands of families. Ensuring children get a healthy school meal is the right thing to do and with the support of the government this is something that could happen here in Hull. All children deserve the chance to grow up healthy, no matter where they live.”

The letter was sent following a cross party request from the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee and a detailed report including any response will be provided to the Children, Young People, Families and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Commission on 17 April 2023.

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