Nearly half of children receiving free school meals don't feel safe at home, a national children's charity has claimed.
School-Home Support UK (SHS), which identifies and supports children who struggle to attend school, revealed the worrying statistics on Tuesday. Most of the 13,000 children the charity supports each year are on free school meals (FSM) and come from homes where poverty, poor housing conditions, domestic violence or the threat of homelessness are prevalent.
"Many are afraid to leave home to go to school in case something awful happens," chief executive Jan Tallis said.
"Or, it may be because their basic support needs - such as clean clothes or breakfast - haven't been met.
"When we do get them into school they often exhibit poor concentration and disruptive behaviour."
Tallis added the factors affect their ability to learn and create a "route to poor attainment and success later in life".
As the number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET), reaches record highs, the issue is clearly "very big".
Moreover, the charity expects to see an increase in the figures over the next 12 months as economic hardship escalates, thus having an impact on other issues such as domestic and mental wellbeing.
"Our main aim is to ensure all children stay in school and do well so they can achieve their dreams and enjoy good lives," Tallis added.
"A recent survey among disadvantaged children revealed many don't think they will go to university, have a good job or earn good money.
"This is tragic."
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