British Catholic charities call for free school meals for more poor childrenFriday, April 27th, 2012
Free school meals for all children in poverty is the call of charities Britain, including Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) and the Catholic Education Service.
They have given their backing to The Children’s Society’s Fair and Square campaign, that wants all 2.2 million children living in poverty to receive free school meals. Currently more than half of children living in poverty are not receiving free school meals.
The charities are hoping that planned British Government changes to the welfare system will address the situation, by offering free school meals to children whose families receive the new universal credit.
The planned new system, set to come into force in October 2013, will stop certain benefits being paid if a household earns more than £7,500. It means many families are likely to lose free school meals, unless their earnings drop below the threshold.
The Children's Society's warnings that 350,000 of England's poorest children might lose their entitlement to free school meals are regarded as scaremongering by some government ministers, but the Society wants the government to make changes to the scheme so that more families get help.
Helen O’Brien, Chief Executive of CSAN said, “The current system not only disadvantages the poorest children, jeopardising their nutrition, wellbeing and education; it additionally creates work disincentives by penalising parents moving into low-paid employment. The introduction of universal credit is a key opportunity for the government to take account of the evidence and public opinion, and adopt a fairer approach to this fundamentally important issue.”
The campaign calls for this extended entitlement; the provision of cashless systems to remove stigma; and a new national review of nutritional standards. CSAN has also raised concerns over food provision for children in poverty during school holidays.
Dr Rosemary Keenan CEO of the Catholic Children’s Society (Westminster) said, “I have heard first-hand from poor parents, at our St Francis Family Centre in the East End of London, about the tremendous difficulties they have in making ends meet when they have to feed their children during the school holidays. The free school dinner is the main meal of the day for their children and having free school meals helps parents on very tight budgets to ensure that their child has at least one healthy meal a day.”
CSAN (Caritas Social Action Network) is the official social action agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
by Ann Marie Foley
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