This briefing covers research into the prevalence, causes and impact of loneliness and interventions to address the issue. The focus is England with an overview of approaches in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The petition ‘End child food poverty- no child should be going hungry’ closed on 14 April 2021 and received 1,113,879 signatures.
The petition set out the following:
The Government should support vulnerable children & #endchildfoodpoverty by implementing three recommendations from the National Food Strategy
- Expand access to Free School Meals,
- Provide meals & activities during holidays to stop holiday hunger
- Increase the value of and expand the Healthy Start scheme
The Government responded to the petition on 11 November 2020:
We thank Marcus Rashford for highlighting the challenges facing families. On 8th November, the Government announced a comprehensive support package to help families through winter and beyond.
The full details of the petition and Government response are available on the petition site.
Free School Meals (FSM)
Parents in England do not have to pay for school lunches if they receive any of the following:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit (provided they are not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
- Working Tax Credit run-on – paid for 4 weeks after a person stops qualifying for Working Tax Credit
- Universal Credit – with household income of less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits) from 1 April 2018, with transitional protections for previously existing claimants
During the coronavirus outbreak, eligibility for free school meals has been extended to include some groups of children who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF).
Section 4 of the Library briefing School meals and nutritional standards (England) provides information on eligibility, changes relating to claimants receiving Universal Credit, and meal programmes during the school holidays.
Information on FSM support since the beginning of the pandemic can be found in section 5 of the Library briefing paper, School meals and nutritional standards (England).
Free school meals statistics
The most recent national figures for the number of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals is as of October 2020. Summary information about this data is available in section 3 of the House of Commons Library briefing paper, Food poverty: Households, food banks and free school meals.
The most recent constituency figures for the number of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals is as of January 2020.
Summary information about this data and a breakdown by constituency can be found in the House of Commons Library debate pack Support for pupils’ education during school closures, published 11 January 2021.
Child Food Poverty
The Department for Work and Pensions published statistics on household food insecurity for the first time in March 2021. 13% of children lived in households with low food security in 2010/20, and 6% lived in households with very low food security.
Of children in poverty, 26% are in households with low food security and 12% are in households with very low food insecurity.
Library paper, Food poverty: Households, food banks and free school meals provides more information and statistics. Library paper Poverty in the UK: statistics provides statistics on child poverty.
13 January 2021 | Westminster Hall | 687 cc 132-155
21 Oct 2020 | House of Commons | 682 cc1129-1177
Ministerial Statements and Committee Enquiries
06 Jan 2021 | 686 cc763-853
Gavin Williamson | Department for Education
Statement on schools in national lockdown.
Commons Select Committee on Education
Opened March 2020
Research Briefing, Food poverty: Households, food banks and free school meals, 30 April 2021
Research Briefing, Food Banks in the UK, 28 April, 2021
Debate Pack, Support for pupils’ education during school closures, 11 January 2021
Research Briefing, School meals and nutritional standards (England), 15 January 2021
National Audit Office, Investigation into the free school meals voucher scheme , 2 December 2020
Local Government Association, LGA: More than a million young people in England could be missing full-time education, 16 November 2020
Trussell Trust, 2,600 food parcels provided for children every day in first six months of the pandemic, 12 November 2020
House of Commons Library briefing on policies and services for people with a learning disability in England.
The main recent policy developments regarding school meals in England, including the revised school food standards and provision of free school meals.