Around 1,700 children could miss out on free school meals under Universal Credit plan

More than 4,000 schoolchildren are living in poverty in South Tyneside.
More than 4,000 schoolchildren are living in poverty in South Tyneside.

Around 1,700 children living in poverty in South Tyneside will miss out on free school meals because of Universal Credit proposals, new figures reveal.

A study by The Children’s Society estimates that 4,300 schoolchildren in South Tyneside currently live in poverty and that 1,700 of these would miss out on free meals with planned new rules.

There is nothing more callous than forcing the implementation of a programme that will increase levels of hunger and poverty

Emma Lewell-Buck

As it has been rolled out, families in receipt of universal credit have been automatically entitled to free school meals.

However, the Government is planning to introduce means testing for free school meals under Universal Credit - which would effect more than 38,000 children in the North East and create a ‘cliff-edge’ where many families would be better off taking a pay cut.

The Children’s Society figures show that 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 extra hours each week at national living wage, to make up for the loss in free school meals.

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck said: “Just weeks ago I introduced a Food Insecurity Bill to try and press the Government to measure levels of hunger in the UK.

“These figures highlight not only the urgent need for my Bill to become law, but also for Government to start measuring and implementing policies to eradicate hunger and to rethink the roll out of Universal Credit, there is nothing more callous than forcing the implementation of a programme that will increase levels of hunger and poverty.”

The consultation on free school meals entitlement under universal credit – at www.childrenssociety.org.uk/fsm – closes January 11.