At PMQs today, Steve McCabe MP drew attention to research by The Children’s Society showing how one million children are set to lose their free school meals under the Government’s Universal Credit proposals. He called on the PM to show some Christmas cheer and intervene.
As Universal Credit has been rolling out, all families in receipt of the new benefit have been entitled to free school meals. However, a means testing element means many families lose out if the parents work a few extra hours which is a Government requirement. In many cases they’d be better taking a pay cut. Figures show that once a family with one child passes the £7,400 threshold, they would need to earn £1,124 extra, the equivalent of 2.4 hours more each week, at national living wage, to make up for the loss in free school meals.
The West Midlands is one of the worst affected regions with 130,000 children projected to miss out, only London has a larger number. In Birmingham alone, it’s estimated that 16,600 children in poverty will miss out on free school meals because of the taper effect which serves as a disincentive to seek more hours.
Speaking after PMQs, Steve McCabe MP said:
“It’s very sad that as many families sit down for Christmas Dinner, there will be some worrying about how they’re going to afford school dinners in the New Year. It is simply not acceptable that 16,600 children across Birmingham and one million across the country are going to lose out. Universal Credit is supposed to incentivise people. I thought the PM’s response was pretty heartless and lacking any seasonal goodwill. She claims she wants to help those ‘just about managing’ but she’s actually penalising those struggling to do the right thing.”