Baroness Grey-Thompson backs free school meals campaign

2 mins read

Thursday 7 December 2023

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has used a written question to the Department for Education (DfE) to cite our research that a third of eligible disabled children are not able to access free school meals.

The 11-time Paralympic gold medallist asked the DfE whether they plan to update free school meals guidance to advise schools and local authorities to make reasonable adjustments – such as providing vouchers – to ensure children aren’t missing out.

We’ve been supporting a parent-led campaign, led by Natalie Hay, aimed at stopping disabled children missing out on free school meals. Of the 1/3 eligible families missing out:

  • 60% can’t eat school meals due to dietary requirements or sensory processing difficulties.
  • 22% are off school due to a long-term illness or medical condition.
  • 18% have EOTAS (Education Otherwise than at School), similar to home education, or are off school waiting for a suitable school place.

The law says that public bodies, such as school and councils, must make “reasonable adjustments” to make sure they don’t treat unfavourably or discriminate disabled people. And we think the free school meals guidance for schools and local authorities needs to make this clear.

Imogen Steele, Contact’s Policy Lead on free school meals, said:

“We thank Baroness Grey-Thompson for raising this important issue in the House of Lords. Eligible families are losing the equivalent of £570 a year in financial help.

“We are calling for swift action from the government to update its guidance to ensure this discrimination stops. It was disappointing to hear Baroness Barran, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, failing to commit to this in her response to Baroness Grey-Thompson .”

Are you affected by this issue?

We have produced a range of resources to help eligible families claim the free school meals they’re entitled to.

We hosted a webinar featuring lawyers Alex Rook, Steve Broach and campaign founder Natalie Hay about parent rights. The webinar is available to watch back on YouTube.