Hundreds of thousands of primary schoolchildren are set to benefit from the Mayor of London’s funding for free school meals next year, as alarming figures show parents, guardians and carers across the capital struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
Sadiq – who received free school meals as a child – has stepped forward with an emergency £135m to help up to 270,000 primary school children receive the meals in state funded schools in the capital from September and save families an average of £440 per child across the year.
The one-off funding is designed to help families struggling with the cost of living, as latest stats show the extent of the crisis hitting parents, guardians and carers across the capital.
Latest Polling from YouGov Plc shows that around one in six parents (16 per cent) of children between five and 11 years are going without essentials, including food, electricity or gas, with more than one in three (36 per cent) buying less food and essentials.
More than one in three (36 per cent) parents and guardians of children between five and 11 years say they are ‘financially struggling’, with around one in six (15 per cent) going without basic needs or relying on debt to pay for them.
The Mayor is determined to do all he can to help Londoners struggling with the cost of living crisis, and City Hall has offered every borough across the capital funding to deliver free schools meals to pupils in Years 3-6 of state-funded schools for a year from September.
Currently children in those school years only receive free school meals if they live in households on universal credit earning less than £7,400 a year – after tax and not including benefits, and regardless of the number of children in the family.
Boroughs are set to receive £2.65 per meal in funding, which is higher than the amount they currently receive from Government. The Government has recently increased its funding to £2.53 per meal following the Mayor’s unprecedented intervention.
Following his announcement earlier this year, the Mayor has set aside an additional £5m of funding to act as a contingency for any extraordinary costs associated with the delivery of the meals.
To further support schools, boroughs have been provided with advice on best practice to encourage all parents to complete a pupil premium registration – this ensures that schools continue to receive additional funding from Government based on the number of pupils who currently qualify for free school meals.
The free school meals funding is the latest programme from the Mayor to support Londoners with the cost of living crisis. That includes investing £3.46bn into building the genuinely affordable homes Londoners and £400m on skills and employment programmes to support Londoners to find more secure work, as well as more than £80m to help those struggling with the rising cost of living to tackle fuel poverty, supporting private renters, connecting Londoners to welfare advice and tackling food insecurity.
The Mayor has also provided an emergency funding package of more than £3.5m to help provide around 10m free meals during school holidays and at weekends to low-income Londoners struggling with the spiralling cost of living over the next year.
Today, the Mayor visited Stroud Green Primary in Haringey to see the preparations taking place ahead of the free school meals starting after the summer holidays.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “It is truly shocking that so many families across the capital are struggling to feed themselves as they deal with the escalating cost-of-living crisis.
“It simply cannot be right that in a city as prosperous as ours around one in six parents are going without essentials to get by. I’m determined to do all I can to help and know from personal experience what a lifeline free school meals can be.
“That is why I stepped forward with this unprecedented funding to provide hundreds of thousands of primary school children with free schools meals. By ensuring children don’t go hungry in the classroom and helping their families, we can build a better and more prosperous city for all Londoners.”
Lucy Walker-Collins, Headteacher at Stroud Green Primary School, said: “We are delighted that we’re able to provide free school meals to all children in our school for the next academic year. It will make a big difference to the children to receive these meals each day and be a huge support to their parents and guardians.”