30,000 pupils in Devon and Cornwall missing out on free school meals
Almost 30,000 children on the poverty line in Devon and Cornwall are missing out on free school meals, a children's charity has said, writes London Editor Graeme Demianyk.
The Children's Society, which compiled the figures, said impoverished families are not getting support, as claiming other benefits means they are ineligible.
Westcountry Liberal Democrat MP Nick Harvey added some families were not claiming because of the "stigma" associated with the free lunch hand-out.
The former minister added the figures showed the Government's flagship schools funding reform is "flawed" as cash is linked to a school's level of free school meal claimants.
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In Devon, 17,900 children are missing out. The figure stands at 10,700 in Cornwall. Of 18 constituencies in the two counties, in 11 more than 50% of children in poverty are missing out.
Camborne and Redruth, Central Devon, South East Cornwall and St Ives have the highest proportion of children affected in the region at 56%.
Mr Harvey called on the Government to change the eligibility criteria as families could miss it if they are in work, albeit low paid.
Furthermore, the Government gives a school £600 annually for each pupil claiming the free school meal – the so-called Pupil Premium – meaning the region misses out on about £18 million.
In North Devon, 1,400 children in poverty in the area go without. Mr Harvey said: "Schools aren't getting the Pupil Premium on the scale they need. Many families in poverty are missing out on free school meals as they are considered ineligible, suffer the stigma of claiming, or – as I have heard first hand from local mothers – are in receipt of Working Tax Credits, which excludes them."
The Children's Society is calling on the Government to make free school meals available to all children in poverty.
Constituencies and the proportion of children in poverty missing out are: Camborne and Redruth (56%), Central Devon (56%), East Devon (48%), Exeter (44%), Newton Abbot (43%) North Cornwall (55%), North Devon (47%), Plymouth Moor View (42%), Plymouth Sutton and Devonport (49%), South East Cornwall (56%), South West Devon (36%), St Austell and Newquay (55%), St Ives (56%), Tiverton and Honiton (50%), Torbay (54%), Torridge and West Devon (52%), Totnes (52%), Truro and Falmouth (54%).