Babergh and Mid Suffolk are working with other Suffolk councils have worked together to try to ensure more children get the free school meals they are entitled to.
Changes to the benefit system in the wake of the introduction of Universal Credit means that some families are missing out.
The free school meals team at Suffolk County Council is urging parents and carers to apply for the meals – which could save a family more than £400 a year. In addition, each application could bring what is called Pupil Premium Funding to each school.
The school can decide how to spend this windfall – as much as £1,300 a year over six years for each extra child applying - but could use it to pay for more books, cut the price of school trips and uniforms or bring in more teaching aids.
The County Council has worked with Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils and Ipswich Borough Councils to identify the scale of the shortfall and to urge people to apply for what they are entitled to.
The Councils believe they have already encouraged 800 families to make new applications but want to reach out to even more.
The message is clear: your child could be entitled to free school meals from now until the end of the phase of education they are in at March 2022 if you receive certain benefits, regardless of any change of circumstances. Find out more online.
Cllr Margaret Maybury, Babergh District Council Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “Free school meals can be the vital help that allows families to provide a balanced diet for their children, and every child who is entitled to them should be able to enjoy the meals. We’ve been urging families to apply for these meals under the new Universal Credit system, and many have, but we don’t want anyone to be left out. Please, if you think your family may be entitled to free school meals, let Suffolk County Council know and give your children and their school the extra help they need.”
Cllr Julie Flatman, Mid Suffolk District Council Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “There are families out there who don’t realise that their children could be receiving free school meals up to year six, and we want to change that: anyone can apply and find out if they are eligible, with the added possibility of the Pupil Premium Funding these applications could make a huge difference to entire schools. I’d urge anyone who thinks they could be eligible to apply and potentially not only provide their child with a free meal, but their school with extra support.”
Gordon Jones, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills at Suffolk County Council, said: “As a result of the rollout of Universal Credit, new rules regarding eligibility for free school meals were introduced. Working collaboratively with our district and borough colleagues, we have succeeded in identifying pupils who had not previously claimed for free school meals, but were entitled to them. This will provide our schools with an additional £3 million of pupil premium funding for eligible pupils to support them with their education.
“This collaborative working has benefited school aged children in Suffolk, Raising the Bar in education to ensure they can achieve their full potential. We will continue to work with our districts and boroughs partners on campaigns to benefit the people of Suffolk.”