Number of Staffordshire children on free school meals rises by almost 40 per cent in 12 months

The number of children seeking free school meals has risen by almost 40 per cent within 12 months, a council said.

Staffordshire County Council says there are now 19,000 children using the Government lifeline, rising from 14,500 the year before.

The council revealed that figure, and the work it is doing to help disadvantaged children, after a report revealed almost 90,000 children were living in poverty across the region, before the pandemic.

Across Staffordshire, there is a two-tiered system of councils, and sometimes a third with parish councils.

County councils, like Staffordshire, are responsible for services such as education and social care.

Helen Riley, deputy chief executive of the authority, said the council has encouraged families to take up free school meals.

She said: "We work hard to support low-income families and Staffordshire is in the top 10 authorities in England under the Government’s Supporting Families programme.

"This year the county council has helped children in 1,203 families, against a target of 784, with practical life-changing support and advice on debt, finding work and other issues which may be holding families back.

"We have helped and encouraged more families to take up their entitlement to Free School Meals over the last 12 months, with numbers rising from approximately 14,500 a year ago to 19,000 now, which also means that the schools those children attend can also apply for additional funding allocated to low-income families.

"We have also distributed food tokens worth £15-per-child-per-week during the school holidays in October, December and February to the families of children on Free School Meals, something continuing this Easter, while activities and free meals will be provided during the summer and Christmas school holidays later his year.

"While we also provide support, the county council also seeks to improve the economic conditions which affect families.

"Unemployment in the county is lower than the regional and national average and next year the authority has announced £109 million to be invested in roads, schools and infrastructure, both electronic and physical, to support businesses."

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