Ekklesia is pleased to be among the NGOs endorsing the Children's Society's new research report, and the associated campaign on extending Free School Meals to all low income working families.
The report, published on 19 April 2012, is called Fair and Square: A policy report on the future of free school meals, and is available to read and download in full here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/files/fair_and_square_policy_report_final.pdf  (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document)
Among the report's findings are that:
* Some 700,000 children living in poverty in England (around a third) are not eligible for Free School Meals (FSMs).
* Although entitled, a further 500,000 children are not receiving FSM.
* This means that in total 1.2 million children living in poverty in England are missing out on Free School Meals.
* Parents working 16 hours or more per week (24 hours for couples from April 2012) lose entitlement for FSM, no matter how low their income is.
* Families in low paid work may miss out on other crucial support and benefits for which FSM is a gateway, increasing their hardship further. This includes assistance with clothing, school clothes and sports facilities.
* Research by the Children's Society demonstrates that loss of Free School Meals and associated help is a major work disincentive for more than half those surveyed.
* A nationally representative poll shows that more than 90 per cent of the UK public wish children from households on low incomes to receive Free School Meals.
* The introduction of Universal Benefit is a key opportunity to make changes to extend Free School Meals to all low income working families.
* The government should ensure that all children in poverty are entitled to receive Free School Meals, and to promote work incentives by extending FSM entitlement to children in families in receipt of Universal Credit.
* All local authorities and school providers should introduce cashless systems in order to de-stigmatise the receipt of Free School Meals.
* The government should review the extent to which maintained schools and academies are adhering to nutritional standards for school food, and whether secondary school pupils who take up Free School Meals are receiving enough to buy a full, nutritious meal, with a range of choices available within budget.
Full document: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/files/fair_and_square_policy_report_final.pdf  (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document). For further information, please email: email@example.com  and visit the Children's Society website at: www.childrenssociety.org.uk/fairandsquare 
This report was written for the Children's Society by Sam Royston, Laura Rodrigues and David Hounsell.
The Children's Society is a children's charity which wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. It is a Christian charity committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including safeguarding children in care and young runaways. It gives a voice to disabled children, helps young refugees to rebuild their lives and provides relief for young carers. Through its campaigns and research, it seeks to influence policy and perceptions to improve child protection so that young people have a better chance in life.
The following organisations are formally endorsing and promoting this research and the associated campaign: Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the Education Union, Baptist Union of Great Britain, CSAN (Caritas Social Action Network), Catholic Education Service, Children England, Ekklesia, Family and Parenting Institute, 4Children, Liberal Judaism, the Methodist Church, National Autistic Society (NAS), NCB (National Children’s Bureau), National Union of Teachers (NUT), Oxford Diocese, Sense, United Reformed Church, WBG - Women's Budget Group and Young Minds. Their endorsements are reproduced here: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-you-can-do/campaign-join/campaig...  The Anglican Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Truro have also supported the campaign.