A large number of constituents wrote to me to express their fury at the Tory cuts to free school meals for families receiving Universal Credit.
As you know, currently all children living in households that receive Universal Credit are eligible for free school meals. However, the Government has brought forward new proposals to lower entitlement to those earning £7,400 from April 2018. These proposals are deeply concerning and I am aware that these changes will affect many families in this area. One million children across the country who would have received free school meals won’t under these rules.
I agree that free school meals have significant benefits, as children are more attentive and ready to learn when they are fed a healthy meal. I believe it is a scandal that the Government is pressing ahead with a plan that could leave over a million children going hungry.
In addition, I share your concern that the proposals will create a dangerous cliff-edge in support, and will make it harder for families on low incomes to make ends meet. Families should not have to refuse pay rises or avoid extra work for fear of losing their entitlement to free school meals. I believe the Government should step back from introducing this cliff-edge in eligibility and instead introduce free school meals for all primary school children, and all secondary school children whose families claim Universal Credit.
I voted to keep the current system, but unfortunately, the motion was defeated with the support of Tory MPs.
I remain concerned that the rollout of Universal Credit is causing real suffering in our communities, which is why at the General Election I stood on a manifesto which pledged to reform and redesign Universal Credit. In addition, I believe the Government must provide further investment in Universal Credit to ensure that work always pays, and that children and young people are not pushed into poverty.