Hundreds of poverty-stricken children missing out on free school dinners in Scunthorpe and Brigg areas
MORE than a quarter of poverty-stricken children in Scunthorpe are missing out on free school meals, new figures have revealed.
Data collected by The Children's Society shows that 900 children in Scunthorpe are not eligible for free school meals, despite being in what is defined as poverty.
The number, which equates to 27 per cent of all those described as being in poverty, is almost as bad in the Brigg area, where 700 children – or 35 per cent – are missing out on free school meals.
According to The Children's Society, the definition of poverty is when a family's income falls 60 per cent below the national average.
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Families are normally entitled to get free school meals if they have a lone parent working below 16 hours a week, or fewer than 24 hours a week for a couple. If their parents work more than this, children will not get a free school meal, no matter how little their parents earn.
Becky Lings, whose daughter Annabel, 5, is in Year 1 at Oasis Academy Henderson Avenue in Scunthorpe, said: "It costs £2 per day for her meals, which I have to pay for because I do not qualify for free school meals.
"I am self-employed and work 16 hours a week, which means I am not eligible. For me it is only £10 each week, but for families with more children the cost could start to add up.
"I think the system needs to be changed slightly for people like me, because I feel as though I am missing out on something I deserve.
"A few of my friends are in practically the same boat, but they are eligible for free schools.
"It is a bitter pill to swallow, because they are in the same financial situation as me."
Fellow parent, Sarah Glass, of Scunthorpe, said: "I fall into the bracket where I claim working tax credits, but am not eligible for free school meals.
"I don't think it is fair, but there is nothing I can do about it.
"It costs me £20 each week for both children. It should be measured by total income. If it is below a certain level, you should be eligible for free school meals."
Nationwide, 700,000 children living in low-income families, where parents are struggling with rising food prices and household bills, are missing out on free school meals.
Nic Dakin, Labour MP for Scunthorpe, said: "It is clearly of concern that so many children are missing out, when common sense says we should be supporting them.
"It is important that children are treated fairly and equally, and that they don't suffer because of a bureaucratic way of looking at things."
Brigg MP Andrew Percy said: "It is important to remember that these figures relate to relative poverty and as such children living in families with an income of less than about £16,200 do automatically qualify for free school meals. This ensures that support goes to the poorest children in our communities.
"Of most concern should be ensuring that the children who live in families below the £16,200 income threshold do get signed up for free school meals."
The Children's Society chief executive, Matthew Reed, said: "It is shocking that huge numbers of children in poverty in Yorkshire and Humber are missing out on a free school meal. Every child in poverty should be entitled to this vital support."
More education news at www.thisisscunthorpe.co.uk/ localeducation