During the past decade, Newham has lost around £250m from its budget due to government cuts, increasing costs of – and demand for – services, and now the impact of Covid-19.
While are committed to supporting local communities, the scale of funding cuts we face leaves us forced to make very difficult decisions in order to deliver a balanced budget. The council is considering whether to alter the Eat for Free scheme with the aim of achieving a saving of up to £1.9 million, whilst ensuring that support continues to be provided to families at this challenging time.
Background on Eat for Free
Currently, all primary age pupils attending schools in Newham receive free school meals from Years Reception to 6. Nationally, all pupils in Years Reception, 1 and 2 receive free school meals. Ensuring that all Years 3 – 6 pupils receive free meals, regardless of their family income or entitlement to certain benefits, is known as Eat for Free.
Providing free school meals to pupils in Years 3 to 6 is a discretionary service which means we are not required by law to provide it, and we are one of only four local authorities to offer a similar scheme. It costs the council around £6 million per year.
Eat for Free helps to support children and families experiencing food poverty, has impacts on wider public health and also on the local economy.
We ran this consultation to understand more about the potential impact of making savings to Eat for Free. We asked for views from parents, residents, schools, other organisations who work with children in Newham, and anyone else who has an interest in this area.
Note that any changes we propose or make to the scheme will not affect:
- A child’s eligibility/receipt of a statutory (benefits related) free school meal.
- Any national or local initiatives designed to address issues of ‘Holiday Hunger’ provision of support outside of school term-time which may be targeted for specific groups of children.
There are two proposals we have been considering:
- Parents make a contribution towards the cost of meals: This would only apply to pupils in Years 3-6 who are not eligible for statutory (benefits related) free school meals.
- Exclude children who do not live in Newham: This would mean children in Years 3-6 that do not live in Newham would have to pay for school meals. Again, this would not affect children who are eligible for statutory (benefits related) free school meals.
The council will not make any changes to the Eat for Free scheme. You can read the press release on this decision here: Newham's flagship Eat For Free scheme guaranteed by the Mayor
View the full results of the consultation survey and focus groups.
Eat for Free consultation results (PDF)
Eat for Free and Food Insecurity Research - final report (PDF)