A COUNCIL leader has criticized the government after the number of schoolchildren receiving free school meals in the city hit a record high.
Department of Education figures show that 7,057 children in Brighton and Hove were entitled to free school meals in January – 22.3% of all state pupils in the area.
This was up from 20.9 percent in the previous year and the highest proportion since comparable records began in 2015-16.
State-funded special schools in Brighton and Hove had a 48.5 per cent rate in 2021/22 – the highest of any state education with at least 100 pupils.
This contrasted with 15.8 percent in kindergartens.
Councilor Hannah Clare, deputy leader of Brighton and Hove City Council and chair of the Children, Young People and Skills Committee, said the rising number of children entitled to free school meals was “worrying”.
She said: “It shows that the number of families struggling continues to rise, which should be seen as a black mark of government inaction.
“While the Conservative government bickers over its next leader and makes little mention of how any candidate would deal with the rising cost of living, urgent action is needed now.
“After 12 years of Tories in power, we have seen nothing but failure for the poorest households. Whether it’s cuts in benefits or cuts in services, it’s clearer now than ever that they don’t care about “leveling” those who need support.
Cllr Clare said the council is doing everything in its power to cut funding from local government, with “as much money as possible” set aside in an emergency fund to help people buy household appliances, as well as a Funds to support School Holiday Clubs and support for the Emergency Food Network.
“There is always more to do and we will focus on that,” she said.
Across England, 22.5 per cent of pupils (around 1.9 million children) are now entitled to free school meals – up from 20.8 per cent and also a record high.
This varied from just 9 percent in Wokingham to as much as 41.1 percent in Islington in London.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said it was “shocking” that one of the world’s wealthiest economies has seen such a sharp increase in the number of youngsters enjoying free school meals this year.
Julie McCulloch, Policy Director at ASCL, added: “Even more shocking is the fact that current eligibility does not even cover all children in need of assistance.
“Free school meals are now eligible for 22.5 percent of students, but we know that child poverty is around 30 percent.”
A new study conducted by Loughborough University on behalf of the End Child Poverty Coalition shows that 29 per cent of English children lived in relative poverty in 2020-21, although this is a decrease from 30 per cent the year before and the first decline in ten years.
The ECPC said this was likely due to government actions during the pandemic, such as B. Temporarily increasing Universal Credit by £20 a week.
In Brighton and Hove, 26.1 per cent of young people under the age of 15 lived in households with less than 60 per cent of the national median household income after housing costs – up from 27 per cent in 2019-20.
The DfE figures also show that white students of Traveler Irish ethnicity were the most likely to receive free school meals across England – 63 per cent of all state school students.
Brighton and Hove had the highest rates among children of black African descent – 42.5 per cent.
Ethnicities with fewer than 100 students have been removed.
A government spokeswoman said it was providing more than £37 billion to help families facing rising costs and would continue to assess eligibility.
https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/20283973.one-five-brighton-pupils-eligible-free-school-meals/?ref=rss One in five pupils in Brighton is entitled to free school meals