On Tuesday this week, MPs voted on new eligibility criteria for free school meals and, under new regulations, the Government estimates that by 2022 around 50,000 more children will benefit from a free school meal, compared to the previous benefits system.
I have been receiving correspondence which suggests that the Government is taking meals away from deserving children and I want to put the record straight.
Labour is saying that we are taking away free school meals from children. This is just wrong.
- No child will lose their meals during the roll out of Universal Credit (UC) as a result of these changes
- The Government plans mean an extra 50,000 children will be eligible for a nutritious meal at school by 2022
- Labour’s claim that our changes could leave over a million children without free school meals is deliberately misleading
- Since 2010, the Government has extended the availability for free school meals to disadvantaged students in further education and introduced universal infant free school meals
When UC was introduced, the Government was clear that it would set a new criteria for free school meals. To ensure that no one was adversely affected during its roll out, the Government temporarily made UC a qualifying benefit for free school meals, regardless of income. As was made clear at the time, this was always an interim measure.
Labour’s plans to extend free school meals to everyone in receipt of UC – which includes families with income of £40,000 a year – would deliver high additional costs that would be borne by ordinary families, through higher taxes and more borrowing.
The Government’s approach will mean that if your child receives a free school meal now he or she will continue to do so until the end of the roll out of UC, planned for 2022, and then to the end of either primary or secondary school (whichever your child is in at this point). So, for example, a child in year 5 on free school meals now, whose parents are on UC but have an income of £40,000, will continue to get them until the end of secondary school. And, a child who will start school in September 2020, who has a parent who at any time before the end of the roll out of UC in 2022 has an income below the threshold, will be eligible for free school meals until the end of primary school.
I am committed to ensuring that disadvantaged young people are able to access a free nutritious meal at school and, contrary to the misinformation being put about, the Government is increasing the number of disadvantaged children who are eligible for this important addition to their lives.