‘More Work Needed’ To Assess Child Poverty In Scilly

hugh town from BuzzaMore work needs to be done to assess the level of child poverty on the islands.

That’s the view of councillors, school representatives and health professionals who attended yesterday’s Children’s Trust Board meeting.

The take-up of free school meals is accepted by the government as an indicator that there are families who need support.

But no parents of under 7’s in Scilly are currently requesting them.

Cllr Mollie Peacock told the meeting that this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are coping well financially. Some parents are trying to juggle multiple jobs and she feels there’s more of a problem than the lunch subsidy level indicates.

There are a handful of older children receiving free lunches and this triggers around £10,000 in government payments to the school, known as the pupil premium, in recognition of the extra support needed.

Commissioning, Inclusion and Performance Manager Keith Grossett explained that the cost of living and lower wages in Scilly didn’t tally with the low take up of free lunches. There were contradictions in that, he said.

Keith feels there needs to be data compiled but getting it isn’t straightforward.

Children’s Services Manager Joel Williams added that the Citizens Advice Bureau have reported that the majority of their sessions in Scilly concern debt.

The Council’s Senior Manager for Community Services, Aisling Hick, suggested that a questionnaire might be circulated at a proposed health fair in September to try and get a clearer picture of need.

From the start of next school year, all infants in England will be entitled to free school lunches but Keith says that shouldn’t affect any school subsidy, because benefit recipient figures are likely to be used as a future poverty indicator.