Eligible children to automatically receive free school meals

Published: Thursday, May 30, 2024

  • Eligible children are now ‘auto-enrolled’ for free school meals
  • New system makes it easier and less stigmatising for parents and carers

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Children eligible for free school meals who are known to the council through the revenues and benefits service are now automatically enrolled for them to help ensure all children have access to affordable, healthy food.

The new system means parents and carers no longer have to go through the application process and children won't have to study on an empty stomach.

Since auto-enrolment started, 272 children have been identified as eligible, saving families a total of £56,000 a year. Schools also benefit, last year collectively receiving an extra £511,000 in pupil premium and disadvantaged funding.

Wandsworth staff crunch a wide range of data to find out who is eligible and then write to families to let them know. Any family identified who does not want to claim can opt out.

Claiming free school meals unlocks other benefits as well, including free school uniforms, free swimming, holiday playschemes and vouchers for parents to spend on lunches for their children during the school holidays.

And, as part of its work to tackle food insecurity, Wandsworth works with the charity Magic Breakfast to provide a free breakfast at 20 primary schools to all children who want it.

Earlier this year Wandsworth won Most Improved Council in the 2024 Good Food London Awards for its work to improve the accessibility and quality of food available to all borough residents, including children.

Deputy council leader Cllr Kemi Akinola said: “I’m proud of our team for working so hard to make sure no child is left behind. If we can do this, so can other local authorities, and we are already sharing our knowledge with them.

“This scheme will cut red tape, reduce stigma and make it easier for children to access the healthy nutritious food they need.”