Pupils lose out on £65 million of free school meals money, says charity

09/05/2019 - 06:00
Secondary school pupils from the most disadvantaged families who are entitled to free school meals are losing out on tens of millions of pounds every year in unspent lunch funds, according to an investigation by charity Citizens UK.

It said that free school meals money not spent by a pupil, perhaps because they are off sick or have missed lunch due to other school commitments, or have not spent the full amount , is kept by the school meal provider rather than held in the pupil’s account for another day.

The charity said the problem is widespread and estimated the losses could be as much as £65 million across the UK – a figure disputed by the Department for Education (DfE) – with the unspent funds being held either by private companies providing lunches, local authorities or schools.

The Guardian reported that pupils receiving free school meals, meanwhile, say not having access to their total entitlement makes them feel stigmatised.

About 750,000 secondary school pupils in the UK are eligible for free school meals, at a cost per student of about £440 a year. The charity said its figures are based on school census data that shows about 20% of free school meals are not taken up on each school day.

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