Government to provide free school meals for migrant children but many still missing out
The UK Government had agreed to temporarily extend eligibility for free school meals to children subject to no recourse to public funds (NRPF) during the coronavirus pandemic, but many migrant families will still miss out.
New guidance published by Department for Education (DfE) on 22 April confirms that thousands of children, who were denied free school meal support because of their parent’s immigration status before school closure, will be able to benefit from meal provisions.
However, only children receiving support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 – a form of local authority provision which is notoriously difficult to access – or Section 4 Asylum Act 1999, will be able to claim the centrally funded meal provisions, leaving many migrant children still excluded, reports the Independent. The entitlement also covers children of Zambrano carers and children of those granted leave to remain status.
According to the Hackney Migrant Centre, many NRPF families who were already vulnerable to poverty and homelessness before the pandemic have lost their jobs since lockdown or been subject to shorter working shorter hours. Due to their NRPF status, these families are particularly vulnerable as they are not able to access the safety net of other welfare benefits or the government’s wage subsidy scheme, Universal Credit.
The Government’s decision comes after threats of legal action by a law firm defending a failed asylum seeker and her daughter who were denied access to a free school meal. Many charities and campaigners are calling for more action from the government to make the free school meal entitlement for NRPF children permanent given the likelihood of them and their families experiencing ongoing and exceptionally high levels of food insecurity.