Merseyside has been left stunned over recent announcements that over 24,000 children in the area will be denied free school meals, under new Tory rules surrounding Universal Credit.
On 13th March, the Conservative Party pushed through proposals to slash the income threshold for free school meals, meaning that from 1st April, families on Universal Credit earning more than £7,400 a year will no longer receive free school meals for their children in Year 3 and above.
Barry Kushner, councillor for Norris Green, said at the ‘Growing Up North’ Children’s Commissioner panel last year, he asked Conservative MP Esther McVey: ‘”How can you expect children to achieve when they’re going to school hungry?” She had no answer to that’.
Currently, all families on Universal Credit can claim free school meals, but once the new benefit becomes compulsory, it is estimated that up to one million children could miss out on their free lunches nationally. While children who already receive free school dinners will not lose this on 1st April regardless of their parents income, this only applies until 31st March 2022, or the ‘end of their phase of education’, whichever is later. For example, if a child is in primary school, they will be covered until the end of Year 6, even if their parents receive Universal Credit and earn more than £7,400.
Every ward in Liverpool has been allocated £10,000 from the mayoral hardship fund, to provide relief for families in need. This relief can be food, clothing, credit for fuel meters – whatever the immediate need is. Cllr Kushner added, ‘If we need to use the hardship fund to help families who have been affected by these cuts, then we will’.