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Should I claim free school meals?
Poll ended at Tue Mar 22, 2011 11:01 am
Yes 80%  80%  [ 37 ]
No 20%  20%  [ 9 ]
Total votes : 46
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 11:01 am 
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Joined: Wed Sep 22, 2010 10:08 am
Posts: 11
I'm in the situation where legally I would be able to claim free school meals, but morally I'm not sure if it would be right to do so. Would really like to know what other people would do, if they were in my shoes:-

I'm divorced and have a little part-time job which pays me a pittance. I also get maintenance from my XH. For reasons known only to Gordon Brown when he invented the tax credit system, maintenance does not count as "income" for tax purposes. Yes, that's right, you could be getting £1m maintenance a year, and the Tax Office will treat you as having zero income. (Don't blame me, I didn't make it up!)

So, for years I've known that according to the system, my children would be eligible for free school meals as I have "income" of <£16k. However, I've never claimed it because I have more than that when I add in the maintenance, and so I thought morally it wouldn't be the right thing to do....

Now, my local council has asked all parents who are eligible for FSMs to please claim them. This is because schools will then get a "pupil premium" which they can spend on anything they like. I'm sure my DCs' GS would be delighted to have a few more children on FSMs on their books! Also, I did read somewhere that childen on FSMs will get some kind of assistance with university fees, so perhaps I am being mad not claiming this?

I consider myself to be pretty comfortable re money - certainly not struggling, so am in a moral dilemma here. Please let me know what you would do.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 11:20 am 
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Joined: Fri Nov 17, 2006 8:54 pm
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Location: caversham
As a compromise you could claim the FSMs but not use them just so the school gets the extra funding and you build up a record that might help later with uni. fees. :)


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 11:23 am 
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Joined: Fri Sep 15, 2006 8:51 am
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stevew61 wrote:
As a compromise you could claim the FSMs but not use them just so the school gets the extra funding and you build up a record that might help later with uni. fees. :)


good idea!


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 11:31 am 
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Joined: Sun Feb 08, 2009 11:09 am
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Good idea steve. Or use them and then give the money to a charity of your choice.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 12:10 pm 
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Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2009 8:19 pm
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I like the idea of claiming them but not using them.

I do worry that if people don't claim these things then the govt will take the attitude that there is no
call for them and they will be cut even further making it harder for families who really do need them.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 12:50 pm 
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Joined: Sat Feb 03, 2007 4:14 pm
Posts: 739
Location: Gloucester
I would certainly claim them-the school will be entitled to £430 extra per pupil on FSM,which can amount to a significant sum when school budgets are likely to fall for 11/12.

GM


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 12:53 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:56 pm
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Knowing nothing about your financial situation, or that of your ex-spouse, my thoughts might be completely inappropriate.

I am on the opposite end of this situation - a second wife, with children (who are mine and my husband's), and we pay child maintenance and lifetime spousal maintenance to ex-wife. Firstly, thinking of you, the amount of spousal maintenance you receive is not set in stone - if you live with someone you could lose it, and also your ex could always apply for it to be lowered if his or your circumstances change significantly in some way. Also,are you fully protected if your ex-spouse dies?

Secondly, thinking from your ex-spouse's perspective (probably not something you want to do). If he is remarried with other children, he might like to think that you claim it, save it, and either spend it in the future on something important that you could not otherwise afford for the children, or for yourself, or give it to charity. Remarried ex-spouse's with children from the new marriage worry particularly about retirement, when they are having to support potentially ex-spouse, children from second marriage going through uni etc. Also, second marriages have a high failure rate, if he has a second divorce at some point in his life and there are children from that marriage involved, that could be significant to your maintenance.

I understand your moral dilemma. We paid school fees for one of my step-children in addition to childmaintenance and spousal maintenance. We could afford it, but there are things I did not do for our children that I might otherwise have done (e.g. private school). We could probably have afforded that too, but the enormity of our financial commitments made it feel a step too far, particularly if anything ever did happen to my husband as he is always going to earn the lion's share unless I suddenly write a best-seller or something. It grates on me that we paid these fees when really ex-wife could probably have got quite a significant bursary for that child, as again for bursaries I don't think child maintenance or spousal maintenance is taken into account.

But morally at least I can think that a child who really needed the bursary money is hopefully getting it.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 1:04 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2008 10:12 am
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Location: Berkshire
Our school sent home a form for all children just the other day in regard to this....a number of questions were asked, one of which is..'Are you entitled to FSM but don't currently claim them?' I wonder if this is perhaps allowed for the school to get the pupil premium? Might be worth asking the school for clarification.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 1:07 pm 
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Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 1:52 pm
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I am in a similar situation to OP except that as my ex is very unreliable with maintainance payments I have good months and bad months moneywise. I think you should claim your free school meals on the "use it or lose it" principle. Give the money to charity - why should the council get to keep it?
DCren's school have made frequent appeals that eligible pupils take up free school meals if they are entitled. However - they do mark the register with the letter F by the name of every child who gets free school meals and supply teachers especially make certain assumptions about those kids. Thankfully, my kids are able to make a lot of preconcieved ideas about free-dinner-kids go out the window - since you're posting on an eleven plus forum I assume your kids could do the same.
The grammar school we've applied to for DD (but not the corresponding boys' grammar) use free school dinners as a tie breaker for the last available places - worth checking it out in your area.
I think that the reason why maintainance money isn't taxable is because it has already been taxed when it was earned by your ex husband. He's giving you money to spend on his kids, not paying you a wage to care for them - although maybe he should! :D


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 1:14 pm 
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Joined: Sat Feb 03, 2007 4:14 pm
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Location: Gloucester
Looking for help wrote:
Our school sent home a form for all children just the other day in regard to this....a number of questions were asked, one of which is..'Are you entitled to FSM but don't currently claim them?' I wonder if this is perhaps allowed for the school to get the pupil premium? Might be worth asking the school for clarification.



This will be exactly the reason-all schools are aware that they can get extra funding now for FSM pupils,so they are looking to maximise the revenue from this.Makes sense......


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