What if the child is entitled to free school meals and has emotionally-based school avoidance?
If a child is entitled to free school meals and is unable to attend school due to emotionally-based school avoidance, the child’s family may still be able to access free school meals.
The eligibility criteria for free school meals vary depending on the country and region, but in general, children from low-income families are eligible for free school meals. If a child is eligible for free school meals and is unable to attend school due to emotionally-based school refusal, the school or Local Education Authority (LEA) may make arrangements for the child to receive free school meals while they are not in attendance.
In some cases, the school may provide the child with a packed lunch to take home or make arrangements for the child to pick up a packed lunch from the school. In other cases, the school or LEA may provide a cash allowance or vouchers that can be used to purchase food.
It’s worth noting that, in some cases, the LEA or the school may require a doctor’s note or other evidence that the child is unable to attend school due to emotionally-based school refusal in order to provide them with free school meals.
It’s important for parents to communicate with the school and the LEA to discuss the options available to them and ensure that their child’s needs are met. Also, if the child has an EHCP, it should include the provision of free school meals if the child is eligible for it.
Where in the EHCP would you write the information on accessing free school meals?
In an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), the provision of free school meals would be included in the “Special Educational Provision” – Section F. This section outlines the specific support and accommodations that the child needs in order to access their education.
The EHCP should include the child’s needs and the provision that will be put in place to meet those needs, in relation to the provision of free school meals, the EHCP should specify that the child is eligible for free school meals and how this will be provided, for example, if the child will receive a packed lunch to take home, or if the school will provide a cash allowance or vouchers to purchase food.
It’s important that the EHCP is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) in the provision of free school meals. It should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that it reflects the child’s current needs and circumstances, and that the provision of free school meals is being met.
What if parents don’t have an EHCP, entitled to free school meals – however their child is unable to attend school due to mental ill-health?
If a child is entitled to free school meals and is unable to attend school due to mental ill-health, and the child does not have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), the parents can still take steps to ensure that their child continues to receive free school meals.
- Communicate with the school: Parents should communicate with the school and inform them of the child’s mental ill-health and the reasons why the child is unable to attend school. They should provide the school with any medical or psychological assessments that have been conducted.
- Contact the school’s welfare officer: Each school has a designated welfare officer who can help to ensure that the child’s basic needs are met. Parents can contact the welfare officer and request that the school provides free school meals to the child.
What laws are in place to protect families?
There are several laws in the United Kingdom that protect families that are entitled to free school meals – but unable to access them, as their child has emotionally-based school avoidance:
- The Child Poverty Act 2010: This law requires the government to develop policies to reduce child poverty and improve the well-being of children.
- The Welfare Reform Act 2012: This law introduced changes to the benefits system, including the introduction of the Universal Credit, which aims to simplify the benefits system and provide a safety net for families who are struggling to make ends meet.
- The Children Act 1989: This law requires local authorities to have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Local authorities have a duty to provide support to families who are struggling to feed their children, including providing free school meals to eligible children.
- The Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014: This law allows for an additional payment to be made to families who are struggling to make ends meet, such as a “severe disability premium” for families with children who have a disability.
- The Food Standard Act 1999: This law requires local authorities to provide food assistance to vulnerable people, including families struggling to feed their children.
What can families do if they have tried everything, but the LEA still don’t provide their child with access to free school meals?
If a Local Education Authority (LEA) is in breach of The Children Act 1989 by not providing access to free school meals, there are several steps that parents can take to address the issue.
- File a complaint: Parents can file a complaint with the LEA, outlining the reasons why they believe the LEA is in breach of The Children Act 1989 and the specific actions that they would like the LEA to take to rectify the situation.
- Seek legal advice: If the parents are not satisfied with the response to their complaint, they can seek legal advice.
- Contact the Local Government Ombudsman: If the parents are not satisfied with the response to their complaint, they can contact the Local Government Ombudsman, an independent body that investigates complaints about local authorities.
- Contact their MP: Parents can also contact their Member of Parliament (MP) and ask them to raise the issue with the relevant government department.
- Contact other relevant organisations: Parents can also contact other relevant organizations such as the Children’s Commissioner for England, or the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, who can provide advice and support on children’s rights issues.
It’s important to note that, as a part of the Children Act 1989, LEAs have a duty to provide support to families who are struggling to feed their children, including providing free school meals to eligible children. They should also have a complaints procedure in place and should respond to any complaint within a reasonable time frame.