No child will lose their free school meal during the rollout of Universal Credit as a result of changes voted for last week, insists Redditch MP Rachel Maclean.

In fact proposed changes to the eligibility criteria, voted for on 13 March, have been designed to ensure support is targeted where it is needed most, meaning those on the lowest incomes remain the focus of Free School Meals.

Rachel said: “Labour are scaremongering by saying we are taking away Free School Meals from children. This is just plain wrong. Our plans mean an extra 50,000 children will be eligible for a meal at school by 2022, while Labour’s claim that changes could leave over a million children without this is deliberately misleading.”

When Universal Credit (UC) was introduced, the Government was clear it would set new criteria for Free School Meals. To ensure no-one was adversely affected during its roll out, the Government temporarily made UC a qualifying benefit for Free School Meals, regardless of income. As was made clear at the time, this was always an interim measure and it was what the Labour Party asked for.

Rachel added: “Now, they are ignoring this, but it is totally unclear what their policy position on this is. They know they haven’t got a leg to stand on and it’s disgraceful they are seeking to cause harm amongst vulnerable communities by spreading these deliberate myths and untruths.

“Labour’s plans to extend Free School Meals to everyone in receipt of Universal Credit – which includes families with income of £40,000 – would deliver high additional costs that would be borne by ordinary families through higher taxes and more borrowing.”

The Government’s approach will mean that:

• If you receive a free school meal now you will continue to do so until the end of the rollout of UC, 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 UC but have an income of £40,000, will continue to get a FSM until the end of secondary school.

• If you receive a free school meal during the roll out of UC, you will continue to do so until the end of roll-out of UC, planned for 2022, and then to the end of ether primary or secondary school (which ever 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 UC in 2022 has an income below the income threshold, will be eligible for a FSM until the end of primary school.

“I am committed to ensuring disadvantaged young people are able to access a free nutritious meal at school. Contrary to the misinformation peddled by the Labour Party, the Government is increasing the number of disadvantaged children who are eligible for this,” said Rachel.