Thousands of Doncaster children could miss out on free school meals

Thousands of children could miss out on free school meals in Doncaster
Thousands of children could miss out on free school meals in Doncaster

More than 5,000 children living in poverty in Doncaster will miss out on free school meals if new Government plans are approved, a children's charity has claimed.

All children belonging to families on Universal Credit - a new a social security benefit which replaces six means-tested benefits and tax credits - are currently eligible to receive free school meals.

But if the government proposals go ahead, only children from families earning less than £7,400 before benefits are taken into account will still be entitled.

Families on Universal Credit earning more than £7,400 a year will be required to pay £400 a year for their child to receive school meals.

According to figures from The Children’s Society, of the 9,700 school children in poverty in Doncaster, 5,300 would miss out on free school meals under the plans.

The charity claims 29 per cent of children in Doncaster are currently living in poverty.

The government claims the plans will lead to 50,000 more children across the UK gaining free lunches.

The Department for Education is currently consulting on changing the way it works out which children are eligible for free school meals.

Chief executive of The Children’s Society, 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.

“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 very principle.

“If the government wants to show it is truly committed to tackling the growing crises of inequality and child poverty, delivering free school meals for children in low-income working families is a crucial step.”

Figures from the Children’s Society show 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, at national living wage extra each week - to make up for the loss in free school meals.

In Sheffield, 7,400 of the 16,400 children living in poverty would miss out.

In Rotherham, the society estimates 5,500 children would not get the meals out of the 9,300 living in poverty, while in Barnsley 3,300 out of 6,700 youngsters would miss out.

The consultation in the plans closes on Thursday, January 11.