West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper joined with The Children’s Society calling for the Government to rethink their plans around free school meals under Universal Credit.
Currently, as Universal Credit is rolled out, all children who live in a household receiving this new benefit receive a free school meal.
However, proposals set out in a consultation by the Department for Education, mean that an earnings threshold of £7,400 will be introduced for all new Universal Credit claimants from April 2018.
The Children’s Society say that these proposals mean that one million children living in poverty will miss out on free school meals and locally this will mean 22,936 children across Lancashire won’t get free school meals.
This figure is roughly the same as those children currently living in poverty who don’t receive a free school meal; clearly showing that Universal Credit will do nothing to alleviate child poverty rates in the UK.
Labour is calling on the Government to ensure that no child goes hungry during the school day, by ensuring that every child in a family receiving Universal Credit is eligible for Free School Meals.
Rosie Cooper MP said:
“Labour have always stood up for the benefits of free school meals on a child’s education and health and alleviating persistent child poverty levels in our society.
“That is why the current proposals on the future of free school meals under Universal Credit are deeply concerning and show how this Government is out of touch with the importance to seriously address poverty levels across the country.
“These changes will affect many families across West Lancashire, especially the poorest in our society, and it is important the Government rethinks their approach. Ministers must hear the views of local people on this matter and how we should be alleviating poverty, not entrenching it.
“I am encouraging all residents in West Lancashire to take part in this consultation which runs until 11 January, in particular parents of primary school children who may be affected, teachers, headteachers and School Governors.”
Debbie Abrahams MP, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said:
“Labour are committed to making Universal Credit work as it should. That is why we are calling on the Government to ensure Free School Meals are available to all children in families who are eligible for Universal Credit. This would remove the cliff-edge for families on the lowest incomes and help to lift more children out of poverty.”
Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said:
“It should be a national scandal that children are going hungry at school, yet the Conservatives’ plans for Universal Credit could leave a million children living in poverty going without a meal in school. In collaboration with Debbie Abrahams, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Labour is committed to opposing these plans.
“It cannot possibly be fair or justified that so many children should lose out, and be made to struggle through the school day without a meal, which, for many children in poverty, could be the only meal they get that day.
“The Government must act to ensure that no child whose parents receive UC will go hungry during the school day. If this Conservative Government wants to do the right thing for our children and make work pay for their parents, they will follow Labour’s call to make FSM available for all children in families receiving UC.”
The Department for Education’s consultation runs until 11th January 2018. It can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/eligibility-for-free-school-meals-and-the-early-years-pupil-premium-under-universal-credit