‘Tragic situation’: Manchester MP hits out as report shows free school meals denied to city’s poorest children

By Sam Ruffe

Thousands of Manchester’s impoverished children are being denied free school meals – and now one of the city’s MPs has spoken about the ‘heartbreaking’ situation.

Statistics released by The Children’s Society estimate that 4,100 (42%) of children classed as living in poverty within Manchester Central do not receive a free school lunch.

The constituency’s figure is significantly higher than the North West average of 35% and Labour MP for the area, Lucy Powell, has spoken out following these revelations.

“The idea of a child going hungry or not getting guaranteed nutrition in today’s Manchester is heartbreaking,” she explained.

“It makes me really sad that my constituency has the highest number of children in poverty and nearly half of these children don’t get free school meals.

“I am investigating how the government’s assault on vulnerable people will affect child poverty in my constituency.

“I will also write to Michael Gove to ask him what he is doing to end this tragic situation.”

Many of Manchester Central’s neighbouring constituencies were reported to have a much lower percentage.

Salford and Eccles have an estimated 1400 (28%) children missing out on their free meals, while Manchester Withington showed a figure of just 800 (20%).

The Children’s Society suggests that one of the main reasons why children do not claim their free lunch is down to their ineligibility.

Under current rules, only families claiming certain benefits or with an annual income of less than £16,190 a year are eligible for free school meals.

However, if a family member works over a specified number of hours per week, then their children cannot be granted the service – even if they do not earn more than the above figure.

As part of their Fair and Square campaign, The Children’s Society is now urging the government to make school meals freely available to all children living in poverty.

The Children’s Society chief executive, Matthew Reed, said: “It is shocking that huge numbers of children in poverty across the country are missing out on a free school meal.

“Every child in poverty should be entitled to this vital support.

“We know from the families we work with up and down the country that parents are struggling to make ends meet.

“Right now, the government is reconsidering which children will be entitled to get free school meals.

“We urge the government to take this opportunity to make sure all children in poverty can get a free school meal.”

The Children’s Society’s report comes only a month after statistics published by the Campaign to End Child Poverty named Manchester Central as the nation’s worst area from child poverty.

It highlighted that almost 47% of children living within the constituency were under the poverty line.

Children are classed as being in poverty when living with families claiming out of work benefits or in-work tax credits where household income is less than 60% of the median income.

Picture courtesy of, via Flickr, with thanks.

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