Roberta has today called for the Government to rethink their plans around free school meals under Universal Credit, along with The Children's Society and other Labour MPs.
Currently, as Universal Credit is rolled out, all children who live in a household receiving this new benefit will receive a free school meal.
However, under current proposals set out in a consultation by the Department for Education, this will change when an earnings threshold of £7,400 will be introduced and will be for all new Universal Credit claimants come April 2018. This consultation runs until the 11th January 2018.
Yet, according to analysis of the proposals by The Children’s Society, these proposals will mean one million children living in poverty will miss out on the benefits of a free school meal and locally this will mean 7,032 in County Durham missing out.
This figure is roughly the same as those children currently living in poverty who don’t receive a free school meal; showing that Universal Credit will do nothing to alleviate child poverty rates in the UK.
That’s why Labour have announced that in addition to providing Free School Meals to all primary school children, we would also ensure all secondary school children in families who are eligible for Universal Credit would receive a free school meal.
Roberta has 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 here in Durham, especially the poorest in our communities, 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.
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
Debbie Abrahams MP, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, also said:
“Labour are committed to making Universal Credit works as it should. That is why a future Labour Government would ensure that in addition to providing Free School Meals to all primary school children, we would also ensure all secondary school children in families who are eligible for Universal Credit would receive a free school meal. This would remove the cliff-edge in Universal Credit and help to lift more children out of poverty.”
Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, has 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.
“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 hot meal, which, for many children in poverty, could be the only hot meal they get that day.
“I am proud to say that the next Labour Government will build on our pledge to make free school meals universal in primary schools, by ensuring that no child in secondary school who’s parents receive UC will go hungry. If this Conservative Government was really committed to doing the right thing, they would do the same.”