More than 200,000 London students in poverty but not eligible for free school meals

Children of parents earning more than £7,400 per year but on Universal Credit are not eligible for free school meals.

Some 210,000 pupils in London are living in poverty but not eligible for free school meals because their parents earn above the low threshold of £7,400 per year.

This equates to around 40% of all children living in London, according to data from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) that has been analysed by the Evening Standard.

Pupils in London currently face a postcode lottery when it comes to free school meals

These figures compare with 100,000 students in the north west of the UK not being eligible despite living in poverty, with 90,000 in the east and around 80,000 in the West Midlands.

CPAG has said: “We must ensure every child in poverty in England can get a free nutritious meal at school every day.”

In England, there are currently 800,000 children whose parents are on Universal Credit but earn above the threshold that allows their children to get free school meals, according to a study by PwC that has been seen by the Evening Standard and the Independent.

The threshold of £7,400 applies regardless of the amount of children in the family and means that many who are living in poverty cannot avail of free food in schools.

The analysis by PwC, commissioned by Impact on Urban Health, suggests that there would be an overall economic benefit to providing free school meals to all children living in poverty in England, worth around £2.45 billion.

Their study suggests that it would cost £6.44 billion to provide the service over the course of 20 years, but the economic benefits would be worth £8.9 billion due to improved educational attainment, better mental health, physical health benefits and general productivity improvements.

CEO of Impact on Urban Health Kieron Boyle said: “This analysis more than provides the evidence required for a policy shift in school food.”

Pupils in London currently face a postcode lottery when it comes to free school meals, with four boroughs – Islington, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Southwark – offering them to all primary school children, with this not the case of stage two pupils in the capital’s 28 other areas.