Chil­dren will miss out on free school meals, char­ity warns

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Under The Umbrella -

As many as 27,800 chil­dren in poverty in Kent stand to lose out on free school meals un­der univer­sal credit pro­pos­als, a char­ity has claimed.

The Chil­dren’s So­ci­ety says the gov­ern­ment has en­sured fam­i­lies in re­ceipt of the new ben­e­fit au­to­mat­i­cally are en­ti­tled to free school meals.

How­ever, un­der plans to in­tro­duce means test­ing for free school meals, the char­ity says a cliff edge will be cre­ated where many fam­i­lies would be bet­ter off tak­ing a pay cut.

Fig­ures from the char­ity show that once a fam­ily with one child passes the £7,400 earn­ings thresh­old, they would need to earn £1,124 more a year to make up for the loss.

Matthew Reed, chief ex­ec­u­tive of The Chil­dren’s So­ci­ety, said: “The gov­ern­ment has a golden op­por­tu­nity to en­sure that al­most ev­ery child in poverty in Eng­land does not go hun­gry at school.

“There are sig­nif­i­cant, proven ben­e­fits for chil­dren’s health, ed­u­ca­tion and their fu­tures in mak­ing sure they have a healthy lunch ev­ery day, but at least one mil­lion chil­dren will miss out if this change is in­tro­duced.

“Univer­sal credit was de­signed to al­ways make work pay, but these plans will un­der­mine that very prin­ci­ple.”

Ac­cord­ing to the char­ity’s fig­ures, which are based on gov­ern­ment data, 42,100 school chil­dren in Kent are liv­ing in poverty, of which an es­ti­mated 27,800 could lose the right to free school meals – the high­est fig­ure in the south east.

Univer­sal credit is the sys­tem be­ing rolled out by the gov­ern­ment to re­place six ben­e­fits in­clud­ing in­come sup­port, hous­ing ben­e­fit and Job­seeker’s Al­lowance.

A con­sul­ta­tion on free school meals en­ti­tle­ment for those on univer­sal credit ends in Jan­uary.

Pic­ture: John Westhrop FM4619905

The Chil­dren’s So­ci­ety fears ben­e­fit re­forms could leave pupils go­ing hun­gry at school

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