In some areas of the UK more than two-thirds of children in poverty missing out on free school meals because their parents are working, according to a report from The Children’s Society.
The report says the highest proportion of children in poverty missing out on free school meals are in the east, southeast, southwest and London. The joint top two constituencies are Horsham, and Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, at 69%, closely followed by Mitcham and Morden, and Arundel and South Downs at 68%.
Of England’s 533 constituencies, only 22 have fewer than 10% of children in poverty missing out on free school meals.
The Children’s Society says that for some children a free school lunch may be the only proper meal they get. Nearly half of teachers the Society surveyed said they often saw children going hungry in school.
For parents in poverty, finding the £370 a year needed for each child’s school meal often means struggling to provide their children with the basics, including buying them shoes for school and heating their home.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of the Children’s Society, said: “It is shocking that huge numbers of children in poverty across the country are missing out on a free school meal. Every child in poverty should be entitled to this vital support.
“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.”
The Society says that across the country every day more than half of the 2.2 million school children living in poverty in England miss out on a free school meal. Of these, 700,000 are not even entitled to one, it says – often because their parents work, regardless of how little they earn.