Southwark to provide free school meals to more secondary school pupils

24 February 2023
The London borough will fund free school meals for secondary school pupils from families in receipt of universal credit.

Southwark is one of five London boroughs that provides free school meals (FSM) for all of its primary school pupils, along with Newham, Islington, Tower Hamlets and, as of last month, Westminster. Earlier this week, the Mayor of London announced funding for FSM for all London primary school pupils, across all boroughs for 2023-24.

As a result of the Mayor’s £130 million announcement, Southwark no longer needs to spend the £3.2 million it does on providing FSM in primary schools. Therefore, Southwark Council has made the wonderful decision to provide FSM to more secondary school pupils.

The Leader of Southwark Council, Cllr Kieron Williams, has made clear that this is, at least for now, only for the year 2023-24, while the Mayor of London’s funding is available. Cllr Williams also stressed that it is too early to say whether this money can fund all secondary school children from families in receipt of universal credit.

The reason children from families in receipt of benefits are missing out on FSM, is because of the government’s draconian eligibility criteria: a child’s family has to be in receipt of universal credit and cannot have a total household income of over £7,400 in a year.

Tower Hamlets already has plans to extend its FSM offer to become truly universal, by providing meals for all pupils in both primary and secondary schools. This follows a pilot of universal FSM in secondary schools in Hammersmith and Fulham.

We laud all of these progressive London councils for their work on supporting children’s health and education. However, nationwide, not all councils are operating in the same environments or with the same resources. That’s why we urge the government to pay heed to the need, and extend free school meals to all children and young people in England, a policy with wide-ranging benefits.