Yesterday MPs, including myself, voted on a new eligibility criteria for Free School Meals. Under the Government’s new regulations, it is estimated that by 2022 around 50,000 more children will benefit from a free school meal, compared to the previous benefits system.
The proposed changes to the eligibility criteria have been designed to ensure that support is targeted where it is needed most, meaning that those on the lowest incomes remain the focus of Free School Meals.
Labour are saying that we are taking away Free School Meals from children, this is just wrong, and if you don’t take our word for it, Channel 4’s Fact Check website ran an article on the misinformation that the Labour Party have spread, which can be found at https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-labour-arent-telling-the-full-story-about-free-school-meals.
- No child will lose their meals during the rollout of Universal credit as a result of these changes.
- The Government’s plans mean an extra 50,000 children will be eligible for a nutritious meal at school by 2022.
- Labour’s claim that the Government’s changes could leave over a million children without this is deliberately misleading.
- Since 2010, we have extended the availability for free school meals to disadvantaged students in further education and introduced universal infant free school meals.
When Universal Credit was introduced, the Government were clear that they 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 Universal Credit 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 Universal Credit – which include 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 you receive a free school meal now – you will continue to do so until the end of the rollout of Universal Credit, planned for 2022, and then to the end of ether primary or secondary school (which ever you are in at this point).
- For example a child in year 5 on a FSM now, whose parents are on UC but have an income of £40,000, will continue to get a FSM until the end of secondary school.
- If you receive a free school meal during the roll out of Universal Credit – you will continue to do so until the end of roll out of Universal Credit, planned for 2022, and then to the end of ether primary or secondary school (which ever you are in at this point).
- For example a child who will start school in September 2020, who has a parent who at any time before the roll out of Universal Credit in 2022 has an income below the income threshold, will be eligible for a FSM 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. Contrary to the mischievous misinformation peddled by the Labour Party, the Government is increasing the number of disadvantaged children who are eligible for this. I hope that this explains the situation.
As with the debate surrounding animal sentience towards the end of last year, once again a barrage of misinformation from the Labour Party and left-wing so-called ‘Independents’ is being spread throughout social media. This is not only plain wrong but it damages our democratic system at the very time that the West is under attack from shadowy rogue nations intent on dividing our communities.
I hope that this clarifies the position of the Government. I am proud that by 2022, an extra 55,000 children will be eligible for Free School Meals.
Rt. Hon Sir Hugo Swire MP
Member of Parliament for East Devon