The Labour Party in Suffolk has condemned the Government’s decision to restrict eligibility for Free School Meals meaning an estimated 11,600 children in poverty in Suffolk could miss out on a guaranteed school meal.
Last week, [13 March 2018], Labour MPs were defeated in their motions which aimed to protect Free School Meals, free childcare, childcare vouchers and the safeguarding against sanctions being imposed unfairly on disabled people.
It is estimated that, due to the introduction of a £7,400 income threshold for Universal Credit claimants, approximately one million children in poverty in England will no longer be eligible for a free school meal.
Ipswich MP Sandy Martin voted in support of the motion but 312 MPs, including Suffolk’s Peter Aldous, James Cartlidge, Therese Coffey, Matt Hancock and Dan Poulter, voted against.
Sandy Martin, Labour MP for Ipswich, criticised the move, saying: “Why didn’t the government leave the situation as it was, with every family entitled to Universal Credit also getting Free School Meals?
“Why, indeed, didn’t they adopt Labour’s plan of providing free school meals to all primary school children, doing away with the complicated bureaucracy and the stigma that prevents so many from getting the nutritious meal they need.”
The changes will also see the removal of the childcare vouchers scheme and the introduction of a means-testing system for parents receiving Universal Credit, removing free childcare for 200,000 two-years-olds nationwide.
Cllr Jack Abbott, Labour’s Education Spokesperson at Suffolk County Council, joined Sandy Martin MP in condemning the decision, commenting: “There is clear evidence showing that investment in Early Years and providing Free School Meals drastically improves the educational outcomes for children from low income households and reduces the attainment gap.
“I implore Cllr Gordon Jones to stand up for Suffolk’s most vulnerable children and urge his Conservative colleagues in Westminster to reverse this arbitrary decision.”