Free School Meals

Department for Education written question – answered on 20th February 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords), Chair, Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities Committee

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answers by Lord Agnew of Oulton on 6 February (HL13093 and HL13094), what assessment they have made of the impact of their decision to delay the roll-out of Universal Credit on the (1) number of children eligible for free school meals, and (2) ability of families to access such meals.

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

I refer the noble Lord to the answer I gave on 6 February 2019 to HL13093 and HL13094.

The eligibility criteria for free school meals (FSM) remains the same following changes to the rollout schedule for Universal Credit (UC), and we will keep the level of the earnings threshold under review following UC rollout. Households that are receiving legacy benefits will continue to access FSM in the same way they do now, and as households migrate to UC in due course, they will remain eligible for FSM throughout the rollout of UC. Our protections mean that even if a household moves above the earnings threshold or ceases to claim benefits, they will continue to receive FSM for the duration of the UC rollout.

No child that is eligible for and currently receives FSM will lose their entitlement to FSM as a result of UC during the roll out phase, and even more children will benefit by retaining eligibility through the protections we have put in place.

The department wants to make sure that as many eligible pupils as possible are claiming FSM and to make it as simple as possible for schools and local authorities to determine eligibility. To support this we provide:

The eligibility checking service to make the checking process as quick and simple as possible for schools and local authorities;

A model registration form for paper-based applications; and

Guidance to Jobcentre Plus advisors and work coaches so they can make UC claimants aware that they might be entitled to FSM.

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