On 2 October, the Labour council in Lewisham, south London, agreed that no child in its schools would be denied a free school meal because of their parents’ immigration status.
“No Recourse to Public Funds” (NRPF) policies deny many migrants access to a social safety net, including means-tested school meals.
The Labour Party is now committed to abolishing NRPF outright, after last week’s Labour conference voted near-unanimously last week for a migrants’ rights motion proposed by LCFM [the Labour Campaign for Free Movement]. NELMA (North East London Migrant Action) and LCFM (Labour Campaign for Free Movement) have been campaigning for free school meals for all who need them, regardless of immigration status.
School workers in the Lewisham branch of the National Education Union voted earlier this year to support the campaign’s demands, and the activist group Lewisham for Migrants has been liaising with the council.
The details of implementation are still being worked out, and campaigners will be keeping a close eye on it, the council states that it intends to support more than just those families receiving Section 17 funding (defined as “in need” under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989).
Lewisham for Migrants campaigner Nicole Obidowski explains: “Other councils have attached free school meals to Section 17 support in order to help the children of NRPF migrants. However, it can be an incredibly difficult process to access section 17 funding, and it is not a reliable benchmark to identify children in need.
“Furthermore, if families are required to put themselves forward, they may be deterred for fear of potential repercussions to their immigration status. No child should go hungry, regardless of these factors”.
All local Labour parties and trade union branches should demand the same of their councils, and all Labour councils should follow Lewisham’s lead.