Suffolk backs free school meals letter to Government

Geoff Barton and Jack Abbott have shared their views on whether they feel free school meals should be available for children

Geoff Barton and Jack Abbott have shared their views on whether they feel free school meals should be available for children whose families are receiving Universal Credit - Credit: Jack Abbott/Gregg Brown/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Current and former Suffolk voices have had their say on a letter sent to the government about free school meals.

Teaching unions around the country have sent a letter to the chancellor and education secretary asking for free school meals to be provided to all children, whose families are on Universal Credit.

The letter, sent to Rishi Sunak and Nadhim Zahawi, stated that vulnerable children who do not receive free meals are facing a "real barrier to learning".

Former head of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds and current general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton said: "We are very pleased to support the Food Foundation letter calling for free school meals to be offered to all children in families receiving Universal Credit or equivalent benefits.

Geoff Barton has backed the campaign to give free school meals to children

Geoff Barton has backed the campaign to give free school meals to children - Credit: Gregg Brown

"It is vital in general that free school meal provision is extended to more children but particularly so at this time because of the cost of living crisis which is pushing many families deeper into poverty.

"Ensuring that all children who need this provision receive a free school meal is hugely important, not only in terms of health but also education as children who are hungry are not in a fit state to learn."

Jack Abbott, former Suffolk County Council education campaigner, said: "Things are incredibly tough for so many families.

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"We know there are tens of thousands of children living in poverty in Suffolk, but because of restrictive criteria, many miss out on free school meals.

Jack Abbott hopes to be Labour candidate for Ipswich at the next General Election.

Jack Abbott hopes to be Labour candidate for Ipswich at the next General Election, and has said free school meals should be available - Credit: Jack Abbott

“Expanding free school meal eligibility to all families who receive universal credit is a straightforward measure, but one that could make a real difference to so many children.

“We know that children struggle to learn on an empty stomach, but more than that, no child should be going hungry full stop.

"The government has the ability to help ease this terrible situation, to prevent children from having to suffer from hunger.

"They have to act now.”

The government says it has has issued guidance to local authorities and schools explaining the eligibility and the protection arrangements under Universal Credit for those already receiving free school meals.

A spokesman said: "We have permanently extended free school meal eligibility to children in all households with no recourse to public funds (NRPF), subject to maximum income thresholds."