Universal credit changes will bar 2.6 million children from free school meals, warns Labour
News › UK › UK Politics Universal credit changes will bar 2.6 million children from free school meals, warns Labour
Eligibility changes mean 1.1 million children receive free school meals but 2.6 million would be entitled by 2022 if they had been kept the same Indy Politics 1.3m children in the UK are eligible for free school meals ( Peter Cade )
Up to 2.6 million children whose parents are on benefits could be missing out on free school meals by 2022, the shadow education minister will warn.
Angela Rayner will tell a GMB union conference on Sunday that the Government’s claims on school meals are “falling apart” after changes to eligibility under Universal Credit (UC).
When the system was first introduced in 2013, all children of recipients – who were all unemployed – were eligible for free school meals (FSM), as they would have been under the old system. Read more Theresa May’s plans to cut free school lunches condemned by Nick Clegg
But in April the criteria was tightened based on income. In England, the net earnings threshold will be £7,400 whereas in Northern Ireland it will be £14,000.
A government technical note published in May said that if the change had not been made, “around half of all (state school) children would become eligible for FSM and the meals would no longer be targeted at those who need them the most”.
It said that in 2017 around 1.1 million disadvantaged children were eligible and received a free school meal, some 14 per cent of all state-school pupils.
But if the change had not been made the number of additional children who would have been eligible was between 2,300,000 and 2,600,000 by 2022. Theresa May is right to take school meals off primary school pupils
In a speech to the GMB’s Public Services Conference in Brighton on Sunday, Mrs Rayner will urge the Government to adopt Labour’s plan for free school meals for all primary school children.
She will say: “Ministers said time and time again that no one would lose a meal, only for the IFS to reveal that one in eight children who were eligible will be stripped of their entitlement under the Universal Credit.
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“Even now, the government refuses to release their own calculations in full.
“Their claims on school funding have collapsed and now their story on school meals is falling apart.”
The technical note was published on the Government’s website after a Freedom of Information request for it by the GMB, the union said.
Ministers have said it was never their intention for the temporary arrangements to remain in place and that an estimated 50,000 more children will receive free school meals by 2022, compared with the old benefits system.
It comes after the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) warned in April that it expected there to be “losers” under changes introduced via UC, which sees six benefits rolled into one payment, despite 50,000 more children becoming eligible.
GMB general secretary Tim Roache said the policy was “cruel, heartless and needless”. Are free school meals always a good thing? – London Live
He said: “I can’t believe there’s even a debate about whether kids should go hungry or not.
“In blunt and stark terms, this policy is taking food from the mouths of millions of children from poorer backgrounds.
“Our members working in schools already encounter children with no food at home, they see packed lunches of no more than crisps or chocolate and buy snacks for their pupils out of their own pockets because too many parents are struggling to make ends meet.”
Children and families minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said: “It’s right that we continue to support the most disadvantaged children.
“Contrary to misleading statements, every child who currently receives a free school meal will continue to do so and as we have repeatedly made clear our data – which is publicly available – clearly shows that around 50,000 more children will benefit from free school meals by 2022.”