"Nobody currently receiving free school meals will lose their entitlement"


Tatton MP Esther McVey has refuted claims, she said were made by a national charity, that thousands of children will be denied free school meals across Cheshire.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said the number of children receiving free school meals will actually increase under the government changes.

Responding to the Department for Education's announcement on free school meals under universal credit, Clare Bracey, Director of Campaigns at The Children's Society, said: "We are deeply disappointed that the government has decided to press ahead with plans that will see 1 million children in poverty miss out on free school meals under universal credit. This will disadvantage poor children from working families and mean some parents will be better off taking a pay cut.

"We would also welcome a response from the Minister explaining why the Department for Education has left the views of more than 8,000 people, who responded to the consultation with The Children's Society, out of its analysis of the consultation responses. Disregarding the voices of thousands of people who feel strongly that all school children on universal credit should get a free school meal gives a highly skewed picture of support for the government's policy and makes a mockery of the consultation process."

According to Ms McVey charities and campaigners are claiming welfare reforms means that up to a million children nationwide will be denied eligibility for free lunches, including 16,500 in Cheshire.

She said: "No child that currently receives meals will have them stopped. This is nothing more than scaremongering. Under the changes we will have a fairly targeted system to ensure more children benefit from free school meals.

"Claims by the Children's Society's campaign are misinformed. Nobody currently receiving free school meals will lose their entitlement when moving onto Universal Credit. Rather, the Government estimates that by 2022, around 50,000 more children will benefit from free school meals compared to the previous benefits system.

"During the start of Universal Credit rollout any family in receipt of any payment was eligible for free school meals. Subsequent changes to the scheme will see children qualify if their parents earn less than £7,400, which with Universal Credit benefit means their household income is £18- 24,000.

Ms McVey added: "We have exempted all children who are currently in an area where Universal Credit has been rolled out and gets a meal. They will not be subjected to changes and therefore no child will lose meals due to the change."

Esther McVey