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Middlesbrough Council to introduce auto-enrolment for free school meals

08 Jul 2024
Schoolchildren in Middlesbrough who are eligible for free school meals will be enrolled automatically as part of a new pilot scheme from September, it was reported by BBC News.

Currently families who are eligible must apply for free school meals but Middlesbrough Council believes that this method is enabling some children to miss out on receiving healthy meals. Under the auto-enrolment pilot, parents are able to opt out of receiving free school meals.

The pilot would support one of the Council’s four priorities - to make Middlesbrough a healthy place - and contribute to reducing poverty by saving eligible families an average of £400 per year. Reasons for families not claiming free school meals include the process of applying, low levels of literacy, language barriers and stigma.

In Sheffield, where auto-enrolment was introduced in 2016, it’s estimated the policy has resulted in 5,000 children benefiting, with approximately £3.8m generated in pupil premium funding for schools.

South Tees joint director of public health Mark Adams said: “This pilot would benefit children and schools across Middlesbrough and demonstrate to us how much of a difference a long-term auto-enrolment approach would make. We want to ensure as high a take-up as possible for free school meals, so that eligible children are getting access to a healthy meal that is so important to their development.

“Confirming eligibility for free school meals has the additional benefit of securing pupil premium funding for the child’s school. Our schools do incredible things for the town’s young people and we want to support them as much as we can.”