What Changes are Being Made to Free School Meals?

Elizabeth Elden
8th February 2018, 1:00 PM
  • Universal Credit roll out will change eligibility for free school meals
  • Government claims it will help an extra 50,000
  • Critics say 1 million children will miss out
  • How will it affect you?
Changes to who is eligible for free school meals have been confirmed. Image:Getty

Changes to free school meals were confirmed yesterday by Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi, which could give an extra 50,000 children access to them by 2022.

However, the changes have been controversial, with groups claiming that it will result in a million children missing out.

The Government has already faced heavy criticism for the rise in child poverty, after 128,000 children spent Christmas homeless.

What Changes are Being Made?

At the moment, every family claiming Universal Credit is entitled to free school meals- this is changing from April:

Under the new plans, if you earn more than £7,400 a year, you will not get free school meals.

This income is on top of any Universal Credit you get -

  • What if I get £2,000 from Universal Credit and £4,000 myself?
  • Then you can get free school meals because you earn £4,000 which is less than the £7,400 limit.
  • What if I get £6,000 from Universal Credit and £2,000 myself?
  • Then you can get free school meals because you earn £2,000 which is less than the £7,400 limit.
  • What if I'm getting £100,000 in Universal Credit, and £1 myself?
  • Then you can get free school meals because you earn £1, which is less than the £7,400 limit.
  • What if I'm getting £10 in Universal Credit, and £7,401 myself?
  • Then you can NOT get free school meals, because you earn £7,401 which is more than the £7,400 limit.

This means that if you earn over £7,400 a year and claim Universal Credit, your child will not be able to get free school meals.

Universal Credit has been incredible controversial, as faults in the system has led to a massive rise in the need for food banks.

To compare, under the current system, you can get free school meals if you earn less than £16,200.

Why Are Changes Happening?

Zahawi claimed that the changes are being made so that an extra 50,000 children, compared to how many can get them at the moment, will be able to get free school meals by 2022.

He said, “Academic standards are rising, with 1.9 million more children now in good or outstanding schools than in 2010.

“It is right that we must continue to offer the most disadvantaged young people additional help and I am pleased that, following public consultations, we can extend free school meals and the free early education entitlement for disadvantaged two year olds.

“Tens of thousands more children will be entitled to free school meals by 2022 compared to the previous benefits system.”

Some families will no longer be able to get free school meals. Image: Getty

How Will it Affect You?

The system will change what families can claim free school meals, depending on earnings instead of whether they claim Universal Credit.

It will affect you if you are currently getting free school meals, and have a household earning of over £7,400 without benefits.

For example, if your household earning are £14,000 without benefits, with the old system you can get free school meals, but you won’t be able to with the new one.

It will also affect you if you claim Universal Credit.

Before the changes, free school meals were going to be given to every family that claimed Universal Credit, which would benefit an extra 1.7 million children.

Now, it will only be for families earning under £7,400, excluding any benefits.

This might be easier for families to reach, as from April this year, the minimum wage will be going up.

The changes will affects hundreds of thousands of families. Image: Getty

Are the Changes Good?

The change in threshold will benefit more families, as it is relatively higher.

It is estimated that a typical family earning around £7,400 a year would have a total household income of between £18,000 and £24,000 once benefits are taken into account, depending on their specific circumstances.

This is a higher threshold than the current £16,200, but much lower than the £55,000 threshold that would have come into place without the proposed changes.

Although slightly more families will now benefit than under the old system, it has still been heavily criticised.

Charity The Children’s Society has called on the Government to continue the original plan of making all Universal Credit claimants eligible, extending the help to hundreds of thousands more families.

The charity said, “Disappointing that Nadhim Zahawi’s first ministerial action will be to remove eligibility that would enable an additional 1 million children in poverty to receive free school meals.”

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner was also critical, saying, “It is an absolute scandal that the COnservatives are pressing ahead with a plan that could leave over a million children without a hot meal in schools.

“These plans will create a dangerous cliff-edge in the Universal Credit system and make it harder for families on low incomes to make ends meet.

“These plans will create a dangerous cliff-edge in the Universal Credit system and make it harder for families on low incomes to make ends meet.

“The Government should have taken this opportunity to listen to Labour’s call for all children in families receive Universal Credit to be eligible for free school meals, but instead they have chosen to make life harder for millions of parents across the country.”

Teachers have also been critical of the changes.

Charlotte, a teacher in Norwich, said, “Free school meals make a huge difference.

“It’s a guaranteed hot meal, and for some kids that will be their main or only meal of the day.

“It can also make a big difference to attendance- if a child knows they are going to come in and get a meal, then a child is less likely to skip class.

“Teachers want healthy children who can focus on learning, and having these meals really helps with that, all children whose parents are claiming Universal Credit should be entitled to one.”

What do you think of the changes? Let us know in the comments!

Comments
Respect
Respect1 year ago

All children, regardless of income.

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