More than 14,000 children living in poverty in Derbyshire will miss out on free school meals under universal credit proposals, a charity warns.
The Children’s Society claims out of an estimated 22,100 youngsters living below the breadline across the county, as many as two thirds could go without a free meal at school as changes to the benefit system are implemented.
The Government is planning to introduce means testing for free school meals under universal credit, which The Children’s Society warns will create a ‘cliff-edge’ where many families would be better off taking a pay cut.
Chief executive Matthew Reed said: “The Government has a golden opportunity to ensure that almost every child in poverty in England does not go hungry at school. There are significant, proven benefits for children’s health, education and their futures in making sure they have a healthy lunch every day, but at least one million children will miss out if this change is introduced.”
The charity claims once a family with one child passes the £7,400 threshold, they would need to earn £1,124 a year more, the equivalent of working 2.4 hours more each week at national living wage, to make up for the loss in free school meals.
Mr Reed added: “Continuing to provide free school meals for all children on universal credit would not only help vulnerable children, it would also prevent low income parents being left worse off if they take on more hours or get a pay rise. Universal credit was designed to always make work pay, but these plans will undermine that.”