Friday, 4 March 2016

Frank Field's Bill To Direct Cash Automatically To Poor Children Wins Cross-Party Backing

I am delighted to support Frank Fields Bill (unlikely to progress this year alas) Free School Meals (Automatic Registration of Eligible Children) Bill. The Bill was due to receive its second reading this Friday.

This is important for Hyndburn and Lancashire for two reasons. All children below the age of 7 are automatically entitled to free school meals which means parents do not register their child's eligibility. Stigma is one barrier but another reason is it is not necessary. Except it is. For every child from a limited means background entitled to receive a free school meal triggers a extra payment to that school (known as  the pupil premium).

As a result of non registration schools are being underfunded. I have tried to tackle this issue as have the schools. In Lancashire we have a unique problem. Lancashire County Council cannot identify parents whose children may qualify as they are not allowed to access benefit data held by District Councils (such as Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit). 

My request to Hyndburn Council to get around this data problem has been obliged twice by the leader  of Hyndburn Council, Miles Parkinson with request letters being sent out by HBC to parents whose children may possibly qualify and this (along with other measures by schools etc) has triggered a huge cash injection into Hyndburn schools for all children to benefit from.

What Frank Fields Bill will do will automatically register these children helping schools in areas like Hyndburn.

Secondly it will tackle the scourge of hungry children. Those over the age of 7 who headteachers in Hyndburn tell me turn up at the school gates hungry and unable to focus/concentrate. 

This situation is inexcusable. Our Prime Minister to have little thought for innocent victims of poverty; children of poor parents who can do nothing about their hunger.

Frank Fields Bill will automatically register these children. 

It will however do nothing about the hunger children suffer during the holidays. For some hungry children in Hyndburn the holidays are time they dread. Where there isn't a school meal.