I challenged the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Minister Esther McVey over changes to eligibility for free school meals which could see 7000 Sheffield children miss out.
The Government has introduced a net household earnings threshold of £7,400 for the children of families in receipt of Universal Credit, meaning that families who earn over this amount will be required to pay £400 a year for their child’s school meals.
During Work and Pensions Questions, I responded to the Secretary of State’s dismissal of the number of children affected:
“There clearly is a serious mismatch between the Secretary of State’s figures and those published by the highly respected Children’s Society who tell me that 7000 children will lose out in Sheffield alone. Will the Secretary of State therefore undertake to publish the basis on which she has calculated those figures?”
These changes to the eligibility for free schools meals hit low-income working families, denying their children a guaranteed hot meal and put extra financial strain on them. It totally undermines the Government’s argument that Universal Credit will make work pay, by making it harder for the children of parents seeking extra hours or higher paid work. All children of families assessed as needing support through Universal Credit should receive free school meals.
A Labour Government would ensure that all primary school children are entitled to a hot, nutritious meal and that no child would have to face a day of school on an empty stomach.