The suggestion in Henry Dimbleby’s government-commissioned report to widen entitlement to free school meals is both welcome and long overdue (Huge growth in free school meals urged to tackle food poverty crisis, 29 July).
The current criteria have the absurd effect of excluding thousands of children living within the government’s own definition of childhood poverty. The impact is compounded when the same criteria are then used for a pupil premium. Broadly speaking, families in “working poverty” – where one or more parent works but on very low incomes – are excluded, while those in “non-working poverty” get the entitlement. Dimbleby’s proposal to widen entitlement to all on universal credit, which spans both working and non-working households, would be a huge improvement.
I made myself unpopular with the coalition government by opposing its policy of giving as many free school meals to primary school children from wealthy households as they were denying to secondary school children living in poverty. This new proposal would go a long way to alleviating that problem.
Former Liberal Democrat MP for North Devon