Free school meals for disabled children

Many disabled children are missing out on their free school meals. Contact is proudly supporting a parent-led campaign to provide food vouchers for disabled children who can’t access their meals.

Contact is proud to support a parent-led campaign, set up by Natalie Hay, aimed at stopping disabled children missing out on free school meals.

In this article

Why we’re campaigning

A third of eligible disabled children are missing out on their free school meal, losing almost £600 a year of financial help.

Of this 33% of eligible families:

We surveyed 1,500 families with disabled children eligible for free school meals. Almost half (49%) are paying £20 a week providing meals or packed lunches to replace the meals their child is entitled to. 85% of families said that missing out on school meals increased pressure on their weekly budgets. Read the full findings report.

These families are losing the equivalent of £570 a year in financial help by being excluded from the scheme. This is causing families to get into debt and turn to foodbanks for help. It is increasing stress and making children feel left out.

What the law says

The law says that public bodies, such as school and councils, must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to make sure disabled people are not discriminated against or treated unfavourably.

Some children are registered at a school but unable to attend so receiving alternate provision, such as home tuition. Education law says your local council must provide eligible children a free meal “either on the school premises or at any other place where education is being provided.”

Some children have Education Otherwise Than at School (EOTAS), a home package of education provision funded by your local authority. Current law says nothing on the rights of these children to have access to a free school meal.

What we want

We want supermarket vouchers to be offered to eligible disabled children unable to access a free meal in school.

The Minister of State for Schools has confirmed that schools in England can use voucher options to provide free school meals to children entitled to them and on the school roll. The Minister wrote this in response to our campaign letter.

In addition, we are calling for the government to update Free School Meals Guidance. It must make clear that local authorities and schools must provide free school meals, in some form, to disabled children who can’t access them in the regular way.

The guidance should include information on alternative ways (reasonable adjustments) to provide free school meals to pupils not in school or unable to eat a regular meal due to their disability. This might include offering a supermarket voucher.

Finally, Contact wants a change in the law so that those who would otherwise be eligible for a free school meal but have EOTAS can receive their meal entitlement.

How you can support the campaign

Join the parent-led campaign founded by Natalie Hay

If your child is missing out on their free school meals, you can join a parent-led Facebook group. Show your support to this campaign by sharing your story and collaborating with other parent carers.

Email your MP

Download our template email and write to your MP, asking them to raise this issue with the Minister for Schools:

If you’re missing out on free school meals

Download our resources

We’ve worked with human rights lawyers to produce a series of resources to help eligible families claim the free school meals they’re entitled to, but missing out on.

Visit our resources page to find out more.

If you’re missing out on free school meals

Free school meals webinar recording

As part of the campaign Contact hosted a webinar featuring lawyers Alex Rook, Steve Broach and campaign founder Natalie Hay.

The webinar is available to watch back on YouTube.