The introduction of Universal Credit means that current eligibility criteria for free school meals and the early years pupil premium, which are based on the benefits universal credit is replacing, need to be updated.
Some of the most disadvantaged low -income households do not qualify for free school meals, according to Government consultation documents. Under these proposals, eligibility criteria based on each household’s net earnings would be taken into account, rather than the current system of the number of hours worked.
Under the new system, a household will have to have net earnings of up to £7,400 to qualify.
The Government also says around 90% of pupils currently eligible for free school meals will continue to be eligible. It does not give an comparable estimate for those currently in receipt of EYPP but as free school meal eligibility is currently used to determine EYPP eligibility the proportion is likely to be similar.
Households working relatively fewer hours but with higher incomes will have earnings above the new threshold, and will therefore stand to lose eligibility.
The Government says no child in England will stop attracting either the early years pupil premium (to their early years setting) or free school meals during the transition to Universal Credit.
The proposals are expected to come into force in April 2018.
The proposals mean that 50,000 more children become eligible for free school meals, the Government estimates.
The consultation closes 11 Jan 2018
The full consultation document is here.