160,000 children to miss out on free school meals under Universal Credit changes
A total of 160,000 children are to miss out on free school meals under changes to Universal Credit rules, according to a leading thinktank.
However, the Institute for Fiscal Studies confirmed that 50,000 more children overall will be entitled to the lunches as a result of the reforms.
Under government plans, the income threshold at which the Year 3 children of Universal Credit recipients are eligible for free meals will be frozen at £7,400 until 2021/22.
According to the IFS, that means one in eight of the the 1.3 million children who would qualify under the present system will not do so - 160,000 in total.
But an additional 210,000 will receive the free school meals as a result of the changes, meaning 50,000 more overall will qualify.
Tom Waters, an IFS Research Economist and an author of the new analysis, said: "The change in the structure of the benefits system inherent in Universal Credit means that the Government was always going to have to come up with a new way of determining which children qualify for free school meals.
"This meant it either had to spend more public money on them in total or create some losers. Its chosen path does a combination of the two. It creates a substantial number of losers, but also a greater number of winners, with children of lone parents and of working parents especially likely to gain entitlement."
The changes sparked a furious political row last month, with the Conservatives attacking Labour claims that over 1 million pupils would lose out.
Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said: "It took a ‘Channel 4 News’ FactCheck to point out that no child who currently receives meals would lose their entitlement and that, in fact, some 50,000 more children would benefit under our proposals when compared with the previous system."
But Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said the IFS analysis proved that Labour was right.