Children and families suffering as free school meals are delayed

Council to write to Minister over free school meals over holidays
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Many families whose children are eligible for free school meals have not had their applications processed in time before the return to school due to a backlog in the system.

That's according to SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly, who has expressed her concerns after reports of delays in free school meal and uniform grant applications.

The Upper Bann MLA said: "The start of a new school term is always a stressful time for parents and children.

"Not only are they are dealing with returning to school during the pandemic, but they are shelling out eye-watering costs for uniforms and other school materials, the last thing parents need is to suddenly learn that their children cannot have access to the free meals they are entitled to.

"It’s beggars belief that the free school meal applications along with school transport and uniform grant applications have not been issued by the beginning of the school term. None of this comes to a surprise, particularly when children are transferring from primary to post primary education and were in receipt of these applications in previous terms. It should be a simple transitional process.

"Thankfully a number of schools have been very helpful to date and will still provide free meals to pupils that are stuck in the application process, but this will be for a very limited period before they will have to charge."

The Upper Bann representative concluded, "The Education Authority needs to urgently investigate their failure and put in place contingency measures to ensure no child goes hungry. I have written to both the Minister of Education and to the Education Authority calling for urgent action to be taken."

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