The Bishop of Durham received the following written answer on 21st March 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government how many children are currently eligible for free school meals but have not yet made a claim.
Baroness Barran (Con): The latest published statistics show that around 1.9 million pupils are claiming free school meals (FSM). This equates to 22.5% of all pupils, up from 20.8% in 2021. Together with a further 1.25 million infants supported through the Universal Infant Free School Meal policy, over one third of pupils receive a free meal in school.
The department does not routinely collect information on the proportion of pupils that may be entitled to FSM, but do not make a claim. The most recent estimate is that take-up is around 89% of those who are entitled.
The department wants to make sure as many eligible pupils as possible are claiming their FSM, 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. The department has also developed a model registration form to help schools encourage parents to sign up for FSM 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 FSM.
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