CPAG has responded to the government's consultation on setting an earnings threshold for eligibility to free school meals in universal credit. We believe that all children in families eligible for universal credit should continue to receive free school meals, as per the current legal situation.
Extending free school meals to more pupils would bring huge benefits for health, educational attainment and children’s wellbeing, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as supporting families’ finances. Yet current proposals will mean that many children in low-income families miss out on free school meals. Cuts to Universal Credit legislated in the last two years already mean that majority of families will now be worse off on Universal Credit than the system it replaces, and this further reduction in support will add to their financial pain.
The proposed threshold will have a negative effect on work incentives and risks creating poverty traps for families on Universal Credit – going completely against the government’s goal that Universal Credit should always reward work. The operation of an income threshold is also likely to create serious practical problems making fair implementation of the policy almost unworkable, and no proposals have yet been put forward for managing this.