Pupils are missing out on free school meals after benefit changes

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Pupils entitled to free school meals are missing out because of changes to benefits, it’s been suggested.

The number of parents claiming free school meals in the district fell this year after a shake-up of the welfare system.

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Among the biggest changes were the way in which Universal Credit, which is one benefit which entitles families to free school meals, is paid.

Now, Wakefield Council has suggested that some parents with children starting school may have missed out on the meals because the application process is not clear enough. 

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Speaking at a children, young people and skills overview meeting on Wednesday, service director for education and inclusion Marium Haque, said: “With regards to take-up in Wakefield (of free school meals), after the benefit changes there was a significant drop-off.

“We’re checking with some of the schools where there’s traditionally been a high number of pupils on free school meals.

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“A lot of the parents didn’t feel comfortable or confident enough to claim that entitlement.

Ms Haque said she was not sure of the exact number of children who were missing out, but believed the take up of free schools meals among those who were entitled to be around 70 per cent.

She added: “It’s certainly nowhere near 100 per cent.

“Some of the schools have been trying to incentivise parents to apply. In one instance, one school offered a free school jumper and said to parents, “We’ll work with you to do the form”.”