At Southall Black Sisters, we see daily the harm that the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) policy causes to the many migrant women and children that we support. The exclusion of children from Free School Meals on the basis of their parent’s immigration status is a stark example of the cruelty and discrimination that lies behind NRPF. Children from BME families are disproportionately impacted; they are left to go hungry and deprived of their rights so that the Government can look tough on immigration. SBS has signed the letter below addressed to Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, calling on the Government to confirm that NRPF families will continue to be eligible for free school meals – permanently.
We support the call for the Government to review free school meals eligibility to include other categories of NRPF families, including undocumented children, who are especially vulnerable to destitution and exploitation. The Government has a core human rights obligation to ensure equal access to food, irrespective of the background of the child.
Please use this link to support this campaign, and promote on social media using the hashtag #ALifeLineForAll.
60 organisations and public figures are calling on the Government to permanently extend free school meals to children from low-income migrant families, as part of an approach to ensuring that no child living in poverty misses out.
Dear Secretary of State,
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the life of every child and young person in this country, but particularly children in low-income families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF). These families rely on their friends and relatives – who are often struggling themselves – charities and other services for much needed support, but many of these sources of help have been unavailable or simply overwhelmed during the crisis.
We applaud your department for taking the decision in April to extend free school meals to children in some NRPF families. This welcome change will have made a tangible difference to these families by providing a vital lifeline during an especially challenging period.
We are, however, extremely concerned by the Government’s intention to stop providing free school meals to these children in the near future.
With its initial decision to extend free school meals, the Government made a positive step in recognising that the exclusion of families with NRPF from the welfare system means that they are especially vulnerable to crises and at a greatly increased risk of extreme poverty. This is nothing new; the COVID-19 pandemic simply exposed the precariousness of daily life for thousands of NRPF families, where the absence of a safety net leaves them only one crisis away from catastrophe.
No matter where the next few months lead us, this basic fact will not change. Meanwhile, the effects of this crisis will continue to be felt for years to come.
While much effort is being made to ensure children do not fall behind, without access to free school meals many children in NRPF families will face having to make up for half a year of lost learning on empty stomachs, at a time when they may still be struggling to cope with the mental and emotional aftershocks of lockdown.
The NRPF condition disproportionately impacts black and minority ethnic children, trapping them in poverty and curtailing their futures. We know that for many children their free school meal is the only healthy meal in their day – but the progress the Government has made by extending this vital lifeline to NRPF families will be lost unless you make this change permanent.
We ask that you urgently provide clarity to these families ahead of the return to school in September by confirming that they will continue to be eligible for free school meals – fully and permanently. Furthermore, the Government must review free school meals eligibility to include other categories of NRPF families, including undocumented children, who are especially vulnerable to destitution and exploitation.
We strongly support the recommendation of the recently published National Food Strategy – Part 1 to provide a ‘nutritional safety net’ for children in poor households, including by extending free school meals to all families on Universal Credit. However, the Government must ensure that children in poverty without recourse to public funds also have access to such meals, regardless of their parents’ immigration status.
The forthcoming school year will be hugely challenging for every child, but whether a child is able to eat and learn should not depend on their parents’ status. The Government must not allow any child living in poverty to fall behind at such a pivotal moment in their lives – now and in the future.
See Recommendation 1, National Food Strategy: https://www.nationalfoodstrategy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/NFS-Part-One-SP-CP.pdf
LIST OF SIGNATORIES:
Action for Children – Imran Hussain, Director of Policy and Campaigns
African Community School – Keith Hughes, Chair
Alexandra Rose Charity – Jonathan Pauling, CEO
Asylum Matters – Paul Hook, Project Director
Asylum Support and Immigration Resource Team – Dave Stamp, Senior Caseworker
Barnardo’s – Javed Khan, CEO
Bede Youth Adventure Project – Fokrul Meah, Senior Project Manager
British Association of Social Workers – Dr Ruth Allen, CEO
Caritas Westminster – John Coleby, Director
Chefs in Schools – Naomi Duncan, Chief Executive
Citizens UK – James Blatchley-Asfa, Lead Organiser
City of Sanctuary UK – Sian Summers-Rees, Chief Officer
Children England – Kathy Evans, Chief Executive
Child Poverty Action Group – Alison Garnham, Chief Executive
De Beauvoir Association – Kate McFarlane, Chair
Entraide Mutual Aid – Felix Kupay, Chairperson
FareShare – Lindsay Boswell, Chief Executive
Feeding Britain – Andrew Forsey, Director
Food Inequalities Rebellion – Dr Sharon Noonan-Gunning
Greater London Authority – Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard, Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement
Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit – Denise McDowell, Chief Executive
Guy’s & St. Thomas’ Charity – Sarah Hickey, Childhood Obesity Programme Director
Hackney Migrant Centre – Daf Viney, Director of Services
Haringey Migrant Support Centre
Health Equalities Group – Matthew Philpott, Executive Director
Help Refugees – Josephine Naughton, CEO
Helen Bamber Foundation – Zoe Dexter, Welfare and Housing Manager
Independent Food Aid Network – Sabine Goodwin, Coordinator
Jesuit Refugee Service UK – Sarah Teather, Director
Jewish Council for Racial Equality – Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director
Latin American Women’s Rights Service – Gisela Valle, Director
Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network – Rosario Guimba-Stewart, CEO
Leicester City of Sanctuary – Pete Hobson, Chair of Trustees
Made in Hackney – Sarah Bentley, Founder and Director
Magic Breakfast – Alysa Remtulla, Head of Policy and Campaigns
Mayor’s Fund for London – Clara Widdison, Head of Social Inclusion
Migrants at Work – Ake Achi, Founder and Director
Migrant Voice – Nazek Ramadan, Director
Migrant and Children’s Legal Unit – Lisa Payne, Senior Policy & Advocacy Officer
National Children’s Bureau – Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive
Newington Green Action Group – Cllr Jenny Kay, Secretary
Parents and Communities Together – Layla Meerlo, Community Organiser
Praxis – Bethan Lant, Casework, Training and Advocacy Manager
Project 17 – Abi Brunswick, Director
Refugee Council – Dr Lisa Doyle, Director of Advocacy
Refugee and Asylum Participatory Action Research – Dr Rhetta Moran, Chair of Trustees
Refugee Support Devon – Nelida Montes de Oca, Casework coordinator
School Food Matters – Stephanie Wood, Founder and CEO
Southall Black Sisters – Pragna Patel, Director
Step Up Migrant Women Campaign – Elizabeth Jiménez-Yáñez, Coordinator
the3million – Nicolas Hatton, CEO
Tees Valley of Sanctuary
The Children’s Society – Sam Royston, Director of Policy`
The Food Foundation – Anna Taylor, Executive Director
The Unity Project – Caz Hattam, Project Coordinator
Together Southwark – Rt Revd Dr W. Karowei Dorgu, Chair & Bishop of Woolwich
UNISON – Leigh Powell, National Officer for Education and Children’s Services
University of Liverpool Law Clinic – Judith Carter, Lecturer and in-house Solicitor
Voices in Exile – Mel Steel, Director
West London Welcome Centre for Refugees and Migrants – Joanne MacInnes, Director