London Mayor ensures every primary schoolchild receives free school meal

Ansar Ahmed Ullah
Contributing Editor,Shottobani

London: The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today announced a historic £130m emergency scheme to help families with the spiralling cost of living by ensuring that every primary schoolchild in London will receive free school meals in the next academic year.

The Mayor is stepping in with the one-off proposal to ensure that healthy free school meals are universally available to all primary school pupils for one year from September due to the extreme pressures currently facing households across the capital.

The unprecedented move will help around 270,000 primary school children and save families around £440 per child annually.

Sadiq Khan, who received free school meals as a child – has repeatedly called on the Government to make the meals available to all, as research has shown that hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren live in poverty but do not receive them due to the Government’s restrictive eligibility criteria and lack of universal provision. Currently, a household on universal credit must earn less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including benefits), regardless of the number of children in the family, to be eligible. This means that many children from working families in poverty aren’t entitled to free school meals.

Given the Government’s inaction, and the soaring cost of living hitting London’s families particularly hard, the Mayor has now proposed a plan to make the meals available – on a universal basis – to all of the capital’s primary schoolchildren for one full school year.

As well as saving families hundreds of pounds per child, making free school meals available to all helps reduce the stigma associated with being singled out as low income, boosting take-up among families needing them most. The meals are also good for children’s health as they may be the child’s main source of hot, nutritious food. In addition, by ensuring they don’t go hungry, children are better equipped to learn.

Sadiq Khan announced the emergency funding today as he visited his old school Fircroft Primary, in Tooting. This is one-off funding from additional business rates income. Sadiq Khan is clear that he is only able to provide the help that should be coming from the Government for one year.

This landmark intervention is the latest in a long line of commitments from the Mayor to help Londoners navigate the cost of living crisis. As well as investing £3.46bn into building the genuinely affordable homes Londoners need, the Mayor is currently spending more than £80m to help those struggling with the rising cost of living, including more than £50m to tackle fuel poverty through the Mayor’s Warmer Homes programme and energy advice services, more than £20m to improve security for private renters and house Londoners who are rough sleeping or homeless, more than £5m to connect Londoners with welfare advice, and £400,000 to tackle food insecurity. He is spending £400m on skills and employment programmes to support Londoners to find more secure work.

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