05:03PM, Thursday 19 May 2022
Stock image. Credit: Pixabay
The number of pupils on free school meals has almost doubled since 2018, according to a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Advertiser.
In January 2018, 6.1 per cent of pupils across the Royal Borough Windsor and Maidenhead were receiving free school meals; by the start of this year, that figure had risen to 11.7 per cent.
It comes as residents across the borough face rising costs in their energy, food and petrol bills due to the rising cost of living.
Cllr Stuart Carroll, lead member for adult social care, children’s services, health, mental health, and transformation, said the ‘factors are the same cost of living pressures facing all families which are driving up the costs of living’.
He added: “[This is] coupled with changing working patterns, which means more families are eligible for free school meals.
“The council has used the Household Support Fund during the last year to provide food vouchers for all those on free school meals and will do the same in the coming half-term and during the summer.
“In addition, we continue to support those struggling to make ends meet with support for council tax costs and those facing eviction.
“Our Here to Help campaign was launched this month with community partners to raise awareness of the local and national support available that can help those struggling to cope with the rising cost of living.”
Cllr Carroll reiterated the £150 energy rebate payments from the Government were being rolled out to residents, and that the Feed Ur Everyday Lives (FUEL) programme would be returning for four weeks over the summer holidays.
In addition, the FOI request revealed a breakdown of the wards in which children are receiving free school meals.
St Mary’s and Hurley & the Walthams saw the highest figures, with 321 and 297 children on free school meals respectively.
In comparison, Riverside had the fewest number of children receiving support on 66, whilst there were 78 pupils on free school meals in both Bisham & Cookham and Boyn Hill.
“The differences in free school meals correlate with the levels of Universal Credit and levels of income,” said Cllr Carroll.
“When a family registers for free school meals for their child the school also gets additional resources, called the pupil premium, for them to support the families so I would encourage all who are receiving Universal Credit to check their eligibility for free school meals.”
The lead member added that himself and the leader of the council were working with the Government ‘to highlight the serious pressures many residents are facing and the need for continued action’.
For more information on the support available from the council, visit: https://www.rbwm.gov.uk/home/community-and-living/community-support/here-help
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