Sharon Hodgson MP: Free school meals a lifeline to thousands of working families

Calls are being made to ensure every child on Universal Credit receives a free school meal.
Calls are being made to ensure every child on Universal Credit receives a free school meal.

Last week, the House of Lords passed a motion calling on the Government to postpone their changes to free school meals, which would see over a million children in poverty miss out on a free, hot and healthy school meal.

This follows from a heated debate in the Commons earlier this month where Conservative MPs cried fake news instead of addressing the fact that children growing up in poverty are missing out once again.

The Lords vote gives the Government an opportunity to think again on their policy and consider how all children living in poverty, including those in working families, can be guaranteed at least one decent meal each day.

If the Government pushes through with these proposals, the very aims of Universal Credit to always make work pay, are redundant as the proposals will create a cliff-edge which will remove the incentive for working parents below the £7,400 threshold to take extra hours at work or seek a promotion.

According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, only 3% of families with children are currently on Universal Credit, so only 3% of children will have their free school meals protected, regardless of their parent’s earnings.

Free school meals are a lifeline to thousands of working families up and down the country, as they ensure that their children receive a hot and healthy meal at least once a day.

As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food, I have seen how pupils from all backgrounds can benefit from a free school meal, as it gives them the energy they need to learn, grow and develop.

I am therefore calling on the Government to ensure that every child on Universal Credit receives a free school meal so that no child growing up in poverty misses out on a free, hot and healthy school meal.