The manifesto contains promises to “increase the overall schools budget by £4 billion” and “protect the Pupil Premium”. In order to help fund those spending commitments, the government decided to stop providing free school lunches for children for the first three years of primary school, unless they are from a low-income family. This policy is a promise to make sure those children from low-income families receive free school lunches throughout their school years.
But how do we define a low-income family?
According to the government’s measures, a low-income household earns below 60% of the median household income in the UK. Figures from the Office for National Statistics indicate that the median household income (after taxes and including benefits) is £27,300. Given that 60% of £27,300 is £16,380, that means families earning below £16,380 a year are considered low-income families. This figure is close to the £16,190 mentioned on the Free School Meals application form.
So are all low-income families still receiving free school lunches from year 3 and onwards throughout secondary school?
Put simply, yes, although the government has made changes to how families qualify for free school meals. Previously, children from all families claiming Universal Credit were eligible for free school meals. Since April 2018, only families with a household income under £7,400 (not including any benefits) are able to claim free school meals for their children.
The government has promised that no child currently receiving free school meals will lose them under the new threshold until the complete rollout of Universal Credit, expected to be 2022, which is also the last year of the government’s term of office.
After this period there is some debate around whether some families will lose out who would have previously been eligible for free school meals.
We’ll keep an eye out for any further changes to the eligibility criteria but for now we think this policy is ‘done’. Stay tuned for updates.
- Apply for Free School Meals – Gov.uk
- Free school meals are changing but will children lose out? – BBC
- Universal Credit Explained – Money Supermarket
- Department for Education, Government Consultation – Eligibility for free school meals and the early years pupil premium under Universal Credit – Gov.uk
- Free school meals under universal credit: slightly more children to be eligible overall, but 1 in 8 who would have qualified under previous system will be ineligible – Institute for Fiscal Studies
- Changes to free school meals will hurt struggling families – The Children’s Society