UC proposals will leave one million poverty-stricken children without school meals

Under the current Universal Credit (UC) proposals there will be a million children in poverty who do not receive free school meals, says the Children’s Society.

As UC has been rolled out, all families in receipt of the benefit have been eligible for free meals, but the government plans to introduce means testing which would create a cut-off for a million children.

The Children’s Society has today released figures which show that once a family with one child passes the £7,400 they would need to earn around £1,100 a year more to make up for the loss.

London, the West Midlands and the north west are the regions where households stand to lose the most from the proposed change in criteria, with 212,000 children in the capital alone set to miss out.

Last month, chancellor Philip Hammond announced a major u-turn on UC proposals which included a £1.5bn funding package to deal with problems caused by the roll-out.

Among other issues, there has been a serious problem caused by delayed payments through the new system, especially for people who need to pay rent.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said the scheme gave the government a “golden opportunity” to ensure children in the UK did 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,” he added.

“Continuing to provide free school meals for all children on universal credit would not only help vulnerable children, it would also prevent low income parents being left worse off if they take on more hours or get a pay rise.

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

Under the benefits system that UC will replace, only families where parents are working too few hours to claim working tax credits are entitled to free school meals.

However, the Children’s Society says the new system will mean only around 700,000 of the 1.7 million school children in poverty who could be helped will receive free school meals.

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