School meal project is just the ticket for Lancashire’s poor families

Hundreds of Lancashire youngsters have been given free school meals after a county-wide campaign to target those in need.
SCHOOL DINNER: More children are getting free lunches as a result of new campaignSCHOOL DINNER: More children are getting free lunches as a result of new campaign
SCHOOL DINNER: More children are getting free lunches as a result of new campaign

As a direct result, schools have seen extra cash, in the form of the new pupil premium, added to their budgets.

Lancashire County Council set up a scheme to help share information with district councils to help schools identify children who are entitled to, but were not receiving, free school meals.

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The aim was to target pupil premium funding, introduced by the Government in 2011 to encourage schools to make sure all eligible children from low income families were claiming their free lunches.

Figures presented to the county council cabinet yesterday revealed that over the past two years more than 700 eligible youngsters have been added to the county-wide list and are now getting a hot meal at lunchtime.

There were roughly the same number of new diners in each of the years.

District councils were given lists of the children receiving free school meals in their area and they were able to use that to cross reference to their own list of housing benefit and council tax support claimants they were able to contact those who weren’t claiming.

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However, a report to the cabinet pointed put that the councils had to carry out a mailshot asking the a potential claimants to either opt in or out of the campaign.

Official checks were made on the response and as a result, the cabinet was told, 1,505 cases were referred for consideration in 2013/14 of which 369 qualified for free school meals,

In the following year’s campaign , 2014/15, of the 1,664 cases referred for consideration 351 pupils qualified.

The campaign has so far seen an extra £436,000 of pupil premium ploughed into the county’s school in 2013-14 and £415,000 in the last academic year.

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A report to the cabinet said: “The increase in take up of free school meals from the campaigns is largely as a results of an inclusive and collaborative approach being taken by all stakeholders.

Generally the management of the project, including key factors such as a communications and data sharing has improved.