Fears about free school meals under Universal Credit

29 July 2015

There is mounting concern amongst charities, which are warning that the availability of free school meals could be under threat as the government continues its roll out of the Universal Credit system to families over the next two years.

The government is being pressed to spell out how the change will affect “passported benefits” like free school meal provision. Passported benefits are only available to families who are already recipients of other benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA), but as Universal Credit will streamline a majority of services, it is unclear how the simpler system will affect provision and how officials will decide which families can still access the extra benefits.

A representative of The Children’s Society told the Daily Mirror: “We are concerned that, without an explicit guarantee from Government, children in families who are moved onto Universal Credit could see their free school meals taken away.”

Whilst Katie Schmuecker from the JRF said: “The new system aims to be simpler to use and to make sure that work always pays, which will help the people who rely on it. But important details, like knowing whether your child will get a free school meal, can make a huge difference to families trying to make their budgets stretch. People need to know exactly where they stand if Universal Credit is to make it easier for families.”

In a recent report, the Social Security Advisory Committee which advises the government, warned “There is little sign that a co-ordinated approach has been achieved” with regards to the problem.”

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