Posted: 21 March 2018

Lords vote to postpone changes to free school meals

Last night the House of Lords passed a motion calling on the Government to postpone their changes to free school meals. The new proposed rules mean that in future families on Universal Credit earning over £7,400 per year will not be entitled to free school meals. 

The vote, which the Government lost by 167 votes to 160, also puts on record the House of Lords’ regret over the Government’s proposals and calls for a full poverty impact assessment.

An opportunity to address concerns

We hope the Government will respond positively and use the opportunity to look again at how to deal with the many concerns raised with their proposals.

In particular, they should explore how all children living in poverty – including those in working families – can be guaranteed at least one decent meal each day.

They should also listen to the grave concerns expressed that the new rules will undermine one of the fundamental aims of Universal Credit - that families should always be better off for every hour they work and every pound they earn.

Unfortunately, the Government’s proposals will result in many thousands of families who earn under £7,400 being left worse off overall as a result of the loss of free school meals if they try to work more hours or get a small pay rise.

What next?

The new rules are due to come into force from 1 April 2018 (although current recipients of free school meals will not lose them during a period of transitional protection lasting until at least 2022).

However, we hope that the Government will listen to the concerns raised by the House of Lords and others and look at this policy again.

For further detail on the Government’s new free school meals rules and the concerns around them can be found in our explainer.

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By Iain Porter

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