Free School Meals

Department for Education written question – answered on 6th February 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Chair, Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities Committee, Chair, Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities Committee

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the implications of their decision to delay the roll out of Universal Credit for the implementation of the changes to free school meals entitlement.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Chair, Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities Committee, Chair, Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities Committee

To ask Her Majesty's Government what estimate they have made of the numbers of children in receipt of free school meals affected by their decision to delay the roll out of Universal Credit; and what information they intend to share with parents, local education authorities and schools affected.

Photo of Lord Agnew of Oulton Lord Agnew of Oulton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The continuing provision of free school meals (FSM) to children from out of work families or those on low incomes is of the utmost importance to this government and we are committed to ensuring that disadvantaged children and young people benefit from FSM. We estimate that under the new eligibility criteria introduced last April, the number of pupils eligible for FSM will increase by 2022 when compared to the old system.

Further to this, we expect many more pupils to be receiving FSM due to the generous protections that we have put in place. The department will continue to publish statistics on FSM as part of its annual publication ‘Schools, pupils and their characteristics’, and the latest version is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/schools-pupils-and-their-characteristics-january-2018.

Following the change to FSM eligibility criteria under Universal Credit in April 2018, we published a technical note that set out the methodology for our analysis. This highlighted the uncertainty within the analysis and how outputs might change where we received revised economic forecasts, for example. The technical note is attached, and can also be found at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/707466/Additional_free_school_meal_pupils_under_Universal_Credit.pdf.

The department has provided guidance, attached, to schools and local authorities to support them in implementing the change to FSM criteria. We will continue to communicate with local authorities, schools, and parents, including when any changes are made to the guidance.

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