To ask the Secretary for Education, what estimate he has made of the number of children in Sheffield Central constituency who are currently eligible for free school meals who would not be considered eligible under plans in the consultation entitled Eligibility for free school meals and the early years pupil premium under Universal Credit.
We are currently consulting on proposals for free school meals eligibility under Universal Credit. We will consider the responses to the consultation carefully and will continue to refine our analysis as our policy on this matter develops.
Currently around 1.1 million of the most disadvantaged children are eligible for and claim a free nutritious meal. This government provides significant funding to ensure the most disadvantaged children receive free school meals.
Under our proposals, no existing recipients of free school meals should lose their entitlement following the introduction of new eligibility criteria. We have proposed protection arrangements to ensure that every pupil who is eligible and receiving free school meals at the point at which the criteria are changed (or any claimants who gain free school meals during the rollout of Universal Credit) should be protected against losing their meals whilst Universal Credit is fully rolled out nationally. In addition, any protected pupils who are still receiving free school meals once the Universal Credit transition is complete would continue to receive protection until the end of their current phase of education.
In our proposed net earnings threshold, we estimate that around 50,000 more children will become entitled to free school meals than at present, enabling us to target support towards a greater number of families on low incomes. It is right that we make sure that free school meals reach children from the most disadvantaged families, and we are consulting on this issue to make sure this is the case.