Bishop of Durham asks about school lunches for children in poverty

The Bishop of Durham received the following written answer on 29th March 2023:

The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government, further to the analysis by the Child Poverty Action Group, published in June 2022, which found that there are currently 800,000 children in poverty in England that are not eligible for free school meals, what steps they are taking to ensure that all children in poverty are eating a healthy and substantial lunch every day.

Baroness Barran (Con): The Autumn Statement 2022 announced £26 billion in cost of living support for 2023/24. This includes Cost of Living Payments for the most vulnerable. In 2023/24, households on eligible means-tested benefits will get up to a further £900 in Cost-of-Living Payments. A £300 payment will be made to pensioner households and individuals in receipt of eligible disability benefits will receive a £150 payment. Also included is the amended Energy Price Guarantee which will save the average UK household £500 in 2023-24 and raising the benefit cap by 10.1% in line with inflation.

For those who require extra support, the government is providing an additional £1 billion of funding, including Barnett impact, to enable the extension of the Household Support Fund in England in the next financial year. This is on top of what we have already provided since October 2021, bringing total funding to £2.5 billion. In England this will be delivered through an extension to the Household Support Fund backed by £842 million, running from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024, which local authorities use to help households with the cost of essentials. It will be for the devolved administrations to decide how to allocate their additional Barnett funding.

In addition to this, we are investing over £200 million a year in our Holiday Activities and Food programme. All local authorities in England are delivering this programme and last year we reached more than 600,000 children over the summer.

The government is also continuing support for breakfast clubs and will support up to 2,500 schools in disadvantaged areas through our national school breakfasts programme. The programme, worth up to £24 million, means that thousands of children will be offered nutritious breakfasts to better support their attainment, wellbeing and readiness for education throughout 2021/23.

In setting a threshold for Free School Meals, the department believes that the current level, which enables the most disadvantaged children to benefit from FSM while remaining affordable and deliverable for schools, is the right one. The department will continue to keep free school meal (FSM) eligibility under review, ensuring that these meals are supporting those who most need them.


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