DfE admits millions of children at risk of losing free school meals

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Up to 2.6 million children could lose out on free school meals by 2022, reveal newly published DfE figures.

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New DfE figures suggest millions of children could lose on free school meals because of changes to the eligibility criteria

The figures, which are contained in the Department for Education’s (DfE) previously unpublished analysis, have been revealed following a Freedom of Information request submitted by the GMB Union.

They show that the DfE expects 1.1 million children to lose out on free school meals by 2020 and between 2.3 million and 2.6 million to lose out in 2022.

This is despite the DfE continually insisting that no-one will lose out under the new means-tested measure of eligibility for free school meals (FSM).

The new system, which is currently being rolled out, will see households stop being eligible for FSM when they are earning £7,400 a year (excluding benefits).

It follows warnings from The Children’s Society and Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) that the earnings cap will mean thousands of children in poverty will be denied a free school meal.

The new system will not impact upon infant children, Reception to Year 2, who receive free school meals as a universal benefit.

Speaking today at the GMB’s Public Services Conference in Brighton, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner will say, ‘This is the latest sign that the Tories simply haven’t been open with the people who will miss out under their plans.

‘Ministers said time and time again that no one would lose a meal, only for the IFS to reveal that one in eight children who were eligible will be stripped of their entitlement under the Universal Credit.

‘Now it appears that there would be millions more who could have had a meal but will be denied.

‘Even now, the Government refuses to release their own calculations in full. Their claims on school funding have collapsed and now their story on school meals is falling apart.’

GMB general secretary Tim Roache said, ‘This policy is cruel, heartless and needless. In blunt and stark terms, this policy is taking food from the mouths of millions of children from poorer backgrounds.

‘Our members working in schools already encounter children with no food at home, they see packed lunches of no more than crisps or chocolate and buy snacks for their pupils out of their own pockets because too many parents are struggling to make ends meet.

‘At GMB Congress this week we are honouring our former President Mary Turner who worked in school catering and spent her life campaigning to make sure our children don’t go hungry.

‘In her memory - and for the thousands of GMB members who work in schools, and children across the country - we will continue to campaign for free school meals for all.’

Minister for children and families Nadhim Zahawi said, 'It's right that we continue to support the most disadvantaged children. Contrary to misleading statements, every child who currently receives a free school meal will continue to do so and as we have repeatedly made clear our data – which is publicly available - clearly shows that around 50,000 more children will benefit from free school meals by 2022.'

  • For the DfE's analysis click here
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