CHILDREN of some of South Holland’s poorest families could go days without hot food if changes to free school meal entitlement goes ahead.
Headteachers, young people’s charities and support agencies fear some low income families could lose out under proposed Government changes to the benefits system.
One Spalding headteacher believes the plans could “spell disaster” for some low income families who are already struggling to put food on the table.
Janet Daniels, headteacher of the Sir John Gleed School, said: “It’s a huge concern.
“Although the Government has not been specific about the details, if they are talking about giving parents a lump sum for meals and uniform, many would find it hard to save that money when there are more pressing priorities such as paying the gas bill.
“Often free school meals are the only proper food these young people get because parents can’t always afford it and it is a huge relief to them to know their children are getting a good square meal.
“Losing these meals would put a huge stress on parents and would put children at a greater disadvantage because you cannot learn withour proper food.”
Mrs Daniels said she believed school meals provide excellent value for money and added: “It’s absolutely wrong to target these families who are desperately trying to do their best for their children.
“We have parents of children at our school who honestly rely on the fact their children get a free school meal.”
Under the proposed changes it is believed the Government would limit free school meals to families with income under a certain level, thought to be about £145 a week.
But the Children’s Society charity fears it would create a benefit “cliff-edge” that would see 120,000 families nationally worse off if they worked longer or earned more.
The charity’s concerns are echoed by Lisa Barwell, of South Holland’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau, who said: “Free school meals are an important financial benefit for families on low incomes as well as improving children’s health and educational outcomes.
“In order to achieve a fair deal for families, significant additional investment needs to be made into free school meals to ensure that the poorest children receive the assistance they need.”