Over 350,00 children will be affected by government’s extreme plans to reform Welfare entitlements. Charity The Childrens Society found that more than 1.2 million children living in poverty are missing out on the free dinners, which are provided to families with low-income benefits. In the report, titled Fair and Square it said ministers were considering a new income cap for families, which could stop over 100,000 households claiming free school dinners.
Currently the welfare system helps families with cash from the tax credit system, unless families drop their earnings below £7,500, families will loose out on school dinners worth £367 a year. This would be impossible for many, as that would mean cutting hours or even taking a pay cut to keep their benefits.
The new universal credit, which is a single payment, was designed to make things simpler for everyone but this is highly unlikely as it could end up making things worse. According to the report 2.2 million English school children are living below the poverty line.
Elaine Hindal, director of the Children’s Society’s Campaign for Childhood, condemned the “policy failure” but said the Government has an opportunity to increase the availability of free school meals to all low-income working families.
“We have shown that there are literally hundreds of thousands of children living below the poverty line who aren’t getting a free school meal,” she said. “There is no reasonable defense for this policy failure.”
The Children’s Society wants every child living in poverty in England to be entitled to free school meals by October. Free school meals provide important financial support for low-income families and for over a third of children school lunch is their main meal of the day.
The biggest issue of the debate is a split in the coalition as some ministers think universal credit will create a lot of complications that could be hard to administer. It would cost an extra 1 billion to ensure half of children in poverty get school meals.
The issue will be consulted by The Department for Education later in the year.