Poverty campaigners in school meals call
Scottish authorities should use the UK Government’s welfare reforms to ensure every child who is entitled to a free school meal receives one, according to child poverty campaigners.
Around 139,800 children live in poverty in Scotland but only 97,096 receive a free school meal, figures compiled by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland show.
The UK Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) new universal credit will replace existing benefits that are used as a “passport” to receive additional local services such as free school meals and school clothing grants.
The Scottish Government is working to ensure families do not lose these additional benefits when the universal credit is applied next month.
But CPAG will today urge Holyrood’s Welfare Reform Committee to go further and promote the extension of free school meals to the 40,000 poor children who are missing out.
Meanwhile, separate evidence suggests that the number of visually impaired people in Scotland could double to 400,000 by 2030, placing an additional strain on the DWP and “passported” benefits providers.
Visually impaired people receive NHS optical vouchers, blue badge parking permits and concessionary bus travel.
Scottish authorities may have to fund twice as many of these benefits in 17 years’ time if the Royal National Institute of the Blind’s (RNIB) predictions are correct.
In a submission to the committee before his appearance today, CPAG Scotland head John Dickie said: “In 2010-11, 21% of children were officially recognised as living in poverty (an estimated 139,800 school children), but the June 2010 free school meals statistics show only 17.8% of pupils registered and only 14.6% of pupils (97,096) receiving a free school meal.
“Around 40,000 fewer pupils are therefore receiving a free school meal than are recognised as living in poverty.
“Short of the provision of free healthy lunches to all school pupils, the introduction of universal credit from October 2013 creates an opportunity to ensure free school lunch entitlement criteria is reviewed to bridge this entitlement gap.”
The committee will also consider a written submission by RNIB Scotland which states: “At present, around 35,000 people in Scotland are formally registered as blind or partially sighted, with up to 188,000 living with significant sight loss.
“However, the number of Scottish people with sight loss could almost double to 400,000 between now and 2030 due to our ageing population and the persistently poor health that continues to disadvantage many of our communities.
“Whilst RNIB Scotland recognises and welcomes efforts made by the Scottish Government to mitigate the impact of welfare reform on passported benefits, the effect of the changes will be felt by some of the most vulnerable in society, not least a future cohort of claimants.
“It will be important to review the impact of these complex changes in case needy applicants inadvertently lose out.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West