Monday, 7 January 2013

School Dinners

This morning the children returned to school for the first time this year. It meant getting back into a routine and getting them up and ready for school. It also meant making 3 lunch boxes (or Bocs Bwyd as we call them).

Yesterday my eldest daughter asked if she could have school dinners and this morning my son asked the same thing. They're sick of sandwiches all the time, no matter how different we try to make them.

But sadly we cannot afford around £30 a week for the 3 of them to have school dinners.

To be entitled to free school dinners we have to be in receipt of certain benefits, such as;
Income Support
Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
Child Tax Credit (provided you are not, entitled to Working Tax Credit and your annual income does not exceed £16,190)
Guarantee element of State Pension Credit
Working Tax Credit "run-on" (the payment someone may receive for a further four weeks after they stop qualifying for Working Tax

But this makes no sense to me. It means thousands of parents are missing out on free school dinners, despite being under the income threshold of £16,190 just because they get off their backsides and go out to work! 

Why are those who work the ones who are penalised all the time? If they government wants to help tackle the long term unemployment (and I don't mean those who are unemployed through no fault of their own and are trying to get work, I'm talking about the minority of those who see being unemployed as their career choice and have no intention of finding a job!) then maybe they should think about rewarding those who work. Help those who are still in poverty but are working more. 

Whilst I agree that free school dinners should be means tested, I really don't understand WHY receiving Working Tax should make you exempt from receiving free school dinners, despite how much you earn!!!

The Children's Society agree with me and have started a campaign called Fair and Square. They want to see Free School Meals for ALL children in poverty. 

Their campaign aims to ensure that ALL children in need of a free school meal receive one. They say that free school meals are a crucial entitlement for families living in poverty and that these meals help to ensure that children from the lowest income families receive warm, nutritious food in the middle of the day. More that half of all school-age children living in poverty aren't getting free school meals. These 1.2 MILLION children may not be eating a single nutritious meal all day.

Free school meals have a considerable cash value - around £380 per year (for me it would cost £1,140 per year for my 3 to receive school dinners) - and as a result can play a crucial role in lifting children and families out of poverty. 

Over the coming months the government will address the future of school meals as they overhaul the current welfare system, which present a unique opportunity to influence and improve the delivery of school dinners so that they are made available to children in low income working families and is why the Children's Society and their Fair and Square Campaign are calling on the government to change the policy and allow ALL children in poverty are entitled to Free School Meals. 
***The above information is taken from the Children's Society Website about their Fair and Square Campaign***

You can sign the petition here, please do so as it only takes a moment of your time and can make the difference to children around the UK

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