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UK News

Christian charity warns new sign-ups for free school meals will carry on increasing

New research has revealed that the number of children signing up for this term’s free school meals has seen an acute surge.

The Food Foundation thinktank estimates that one million children have signed up for the first time - with 64 percent of them belonging to former higher-income households.

There are currently 1.4 million children already benefiting from free school meals.

Coronavirus has seen families lose their jobs during lockdown, with many of those impacted previously holding high-pay administrative roles, according to the report.

For Chris Blackham, director of strategy for Transform Lives for Good (TLG), a Christian charity that works with vulnerable children, the news is not surprising. He thinks that the free school meals scheme is only a short-term fix.

“The current free school meal provision only really scratches the surface of the reality that families are facing across this nation. And that's only been exacerbated by Covid over the last six [to] nine months.”

Campaigners are urging government ministers to prevent a food crisis as the coronavirus continues to aggravate existing child food poverty problems.

“The situation is only going to get worse. Even if the virus itself wasn't still around, we should still be expecting over the next six months [to] a year…families experiencing severe financial difficulties with redundancies” Blackham added.

The report proposes three measures for the Government to act on, one of which is broadening the eligibility of the scheme to children aged 16 or below whose families claim universal credit.

Chris Blackham from TLG agrees with those proposals but thinks that isolation is also a problem and more needs to be done in terms of providing guidance to people.

“In the myriad of other reasons, while they're actually in the situation that they're in, free school meals [are] great…It's a sticking plaster but it [must] be accompanied by increasing the connection for these families…Especially in the last six months, [I´ve found] them to be so isolated from the rest of our community.”

Chris Blackham wants to encourage Christians to pray and take part in those existing church initiatives.

“If no one else steps into this gap for struggling families, what on earth are we doing? We, the church, should be the ones stepping into that gap and being Jesus to those in need on our doorstep.”

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