We campaign for free school meals for all children who need them, regardless of their parents’ immigration status

Denying children access to free school meals is one of the many ways No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) conditions discriminate against migrant families. Whether a child is able to eat should not depend on their carers’ immigration status or where they were born.

Why we are campaigning for free school meals

Hackney Migrant Centre has been carrying out free school meals advocacy on behalf of children from families with NRPF for over three years.

The current system gives children free school meals only if their parents or carers are receiving one of a list of benefits. As people with NRPF cannot access the safety net of benefits, these families are left vulnerable to the most extreme poverty. On top of this their children are then also excluded from free school meals.

We campaign to ensure that no child risks skipping meals and that no family is pushed into further destitution because their children need to eat at school. A child’s ability to access enough food to enjoy their school day should not depend on their parents’ immigration status or what their carers earn.

Our advocacy

From August 2018 to November 2019 we advocated on behalf of 98 children, attending 70 schools in 21 boroughs. We are happy to have secured free school meals for over 65% of them.

Our advocacy provides an evidence base that campaigners and activists can use to prove the harm that NRPF causes, and to demand national policy change to how free school meals are given.

We have documented our advocacy in detail to support North East London Migrant Action’s free school meals campaign which calls for free school meals for all who need them regardless of immigration status.

More about this campaign

Only 15.4% of children claimed free school meals in England in 2018 yet it is estimated that 30% of children in the UK are living in poverty. Amongst the children living in poverty who are not getting free school meals the poorest children can be found – those whose carers have NRPF and are struggling, or children in undocumented families who are often completely financially dependent on friends and charitable handouts.

Families receiving Section 17 support from their local council are sometimes placed in bed and breakfasts with no cooking facilities. The ability to prepare food when a family is in inadequate accommodation is already a huge challenge, and when combined with tiny budgets it results in school meals being both essential and completely unaffordable.

All the children that we advocate for are destitute. Many are homeless and have found themselves sofa surfing: sharing beds or sleeping in the living rooms of friends or family members on a temporary basis. Around half of the children living in private rented accommodation are in severely overcrowded conditions with between three and six people sharing a bedroom.

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