There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the issue of Free School Meals (FSMs) and I'm afraid to say, the facts surrounding the debate on Tuesday 13 March have been misleading. You can listen to my full speech at the link here but in summary...
- All children in reception and years one and two will continue to receive a FSM.
- The proposed changes to the criteria for years three and above will ensure that support is better targeted, resulting in an extra 50,000 children being eligible for a FSM by 2022.
- No child will lose their meals during the rollout of Universal Credit as a result of these changes.
- Labour’s claim that these changes could leave over a million children without a meal is deliberately misleading.
Because Universal Credit is a new benefits system, all other legacy benefits, including FSMs need to be integrated into the new system. To ensure no one was adversely affected during its roll out, as an interim measure, the Government made FSMs available to everyone moving onto Universal Credit, regardless of income. This means there are currently some families on tax credit boosted incomes approaching £50k. Going forward, it is clear that tax payer's money could be better spent, trying to reach some of the poorer families who currently do not access FSMs due to narrower qualifying criteria in the old benefits system.
- If you receive a FSM now – you will continue to do so until the end of the rollout of Universal Credit, planned for 2022, and then to the end of ether primary or secondary school (whichever you are in at this point).
- For example a child in Year 5 on a FSM now, whose parents are on Universal Credit but have an income of £40,000, will continue to get a FSM until the end of secondary school.
- If you receive, a FSM during the roll out of Universal Credit – you will continue to do so until the end of roll out of Universal Credit, planned for 2022, and then to the end of ether primary or secondary school (whichever you are in at this point).
- For example, a child who will start school in September 2020, who has a parent who at any time before the roll out of Universal Credit in 2022 has an income below the income threshold, will be eligible for a FSM until the end of primary school.
I hope this explains the situation.