Free school meals changes ‘could discourage work’. The Children’s Society wants free school meals for all children living in poverty in England. Planned changes to the free school meals (FSM) system could put thousands of low-income families in England off working, a charity says.The meals are linked to low-income benefits that will merge into a single Universal Credit in 2013.
The Children’s Society says if ministers tie eligibility to an income level, then thousands of parents may choose to work less to qualify for FSM.The government says it wants to ensure poor families do not lose out. Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said the changes to the welfare system mean that there would have to be changes to the way free school meals were allocated.
Although no plans have been published, ministers are considering basing eligibility on income and the Children’s Society says it believes the level being considered is £7,500 a year. And it is warning that this would create a benefits “cliff-edge” that could see 120,000 families worse off. In its analysis of the idea, the society says: “Were an earnings threshold of £7,500 introduced for entitlement to free school meals under the Universal Credit, this would mean around 120,000 families in England (with a total of around 350,000 school-age children) could be put in a position where they would be better off if they dropped their earnings… to below the £7,500 earnings threshold in order to bring them into entitlement for free school meals.”