GUISBOROUGH woman Catherine Clark has three children and without free school meals, she would "massively struggle".

Forced to give up work due to her disabilities, she knows her situation – scraping by every month to afford the basics for her teenage daughter and young sons – may never change.

Reliant on Universal Credit, she’s struggled for years now and has watched families around her struggle, too.

“I’m not massively surprised there’s been such a rise in children eligible for free school meals,” she says.

“Families are worse off, especially since lockdown when businesses closed – and I can only see things getting worse.”

The Northern Echo: A school meal is served.

Knowing her children can get at least one free meal a day has been a massive help for the 42-year-old and without free school meals, she knows her children would go without in many other ways.

“I wouldn’t be able to afford school meals if I had to pay for all three every day, or if I did, I’d have to cut back on so much,” she says.

“We just about scrape by now and with the rising fuel bills, it’s horrendous – I’m always shouting at the kids for leaving lights on.”

She said her disabilities mean her personal situation is unlikely to change, adding: “We are having to adapt and cut back all the time to cope with the amount of money we get.

“If they ever stopped free school meals, I don’t know how I’d cope.

“During lockdown, we received food parcels because we were eligible and without those, we would have struggled massively.”

The cost-of-living crisis will inevitably take a toll on families like Catherine’s and she looks to the future with uncertainty.

“I know it’s only going to get worse because the cost of everything is increasing, yet you don’t get anything extra to deal with it.

“We’ll just have to keep making changes and cutting back to try and adapt to what’s happening.”

Her children, she says, don’t even particularly like school meals – “they’re not massive fans but I have to tell them they’ve got to eat what they’re given because it’s free and I can’t afford to give them packed lunches every day.”