Contact wins at the Charity Awards 2024

3 mins read

Wednesday 10 July 2024

Tags: campaigns, free school meals, Parent Carers, disabled children, awards

Contact is delighted to announce that the Free School Meals campaign, set up by parent carer Natalie Hay, has taken top prize in the Disability category at this year’s Charity Awards, the longest-running and most prestigious awards scheme in the charity sector.

Contact was recognised for our work supporting and amplifying the parent-led campaign, to ensure eligible disabled children don’t miss out on their free school meal.

Together with parent campaigner Natalie Hay and her son Matteo, we were honoured to be invited to a black-tie ceremony at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London, hosted by broadcaster, commentator and writer Baroness Ayesha Hazarika. There we were presented with a trophy alongside the nine other category winners.

Working collaboratively

Anna Bird, chief executive at Contact, said: “We are very proud to win this award, which is testament to the hard work of the Contact campaigns team and our ethos of working collaboratively with parent carers.

“Campaign leader, Natalie Hay saw discrimination taking place and decided to take a stand on behalf of all parent carers. That is the strength of the parent carer community. We were honoured to work alongside Natalie and other parent carers to effect change and ensure that eligible disabled children don’t miss out on the free school meal they are entitled to.”

Proud of this prize

Matt Nolan, chief executive of Civil Society Media which organises the Charity Awards, congratulated Contact on winning the highly-coveted award.  He said: “For 24 years, the Charity Awards has been shining a spotlight on the vital and inspiring work that UK charities carry out right across the country. In 2024, the sector is contending with soaring costs, rising demand and shrinking donations, yet the resilience, ambition and innovation in these applications continues to impress and inspire us. In a year of record entries, Contact should be hugely proud of this prize.” 

Contact’s research found that 164,000 disabled children were missing out on their free school meal due to their disability or sensory needs, or because they are unable to attend school due to illness or waiting for a suitable school place. 

The law is clear that they should receive an alternative such as a food vouchers in lieu of the meal, yet thousands weren’t.

Parent Natalie Hay led a campaign to stop disabled children missing out on free school meals and Contact joined her fight. Together we successfully convinced the government to admit that its current practice discriminated against those who couldn’t make use of the school meals. The government committed to update its guidance making clear schools have a duty to provide a reasonable adjustment such as a supermarket voucher. The guidance was published in March 2024.

If all families who are eligible take advantage of the vouchers, the gain to those families would be around £93m.

We are very grateful to Ian Byrne MP and solicitors Rook, Irwin and Sweeney for supporting the campaign. We couldn’t have achieved the win without them.

If your child is missing out on their free school meal

We have template letters to help those missing out on a free meal and want to claim vouchers instead.