The free school meals poverty trap

March 2018

Up to now, all families receiving universal credit have been eligible for free school meals. However, from 1 April 2018 in England, the Government plans to introduce a new earnings limit so that families on universal credit earning over £7,400 a year (after tax and national insurance) are no longer eligible.

While some families will be protected in the universal credit transitional period, we are concerned about the impact that the measure will have on work incentives during, and following, full rollout.

We have produced this briefing alongside The Children’s Society, and it draws on new analysis by York University’s Professor Jonathan Bradshaw and Dr Antonia Keung. It shows the new rules will put a significant number of families at risk of becoming worse off if they work more hours or get a pay rise in future .

The government is keen that under universal credit people will always be better off working, and working more – with this new earnings threshold that clearly won't always be the case. 

Download the briefing