Labour has lost the vote to annul plans that will see eligibility for Free School Meals (FSM) lowered to an income of £7,400 under Universal Credit.
A debate lasting more than three hours was carried out in Parliament yesterday (13th March), with Labour calling for the current system whereby all claimants of Universal Credit receive FSM to remain. Opponents to the question argued that the current system was only ever meant to be for an interim period and Labour were defeated by 312 votes to 254.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner put the question to the House of Commons, arguing that under the new regulations, one million children would lose out on a FSM, but Conservative MPs accused labour of misleading the public, noting that only one million children would miss out in a hypothetical circumstance where all claimants are entitled to FSM. This, they said, would mean that almost half of all children would receive a free lunch at school and help families who don’t need it.
Labour, however, accused the government of not backing up their claim that 50,000 more children will receive FSM compared to the old benefits system by the end of the Universal Credit rollout in 2022.
A date has not yet been set for a debate in the House of Lords, but the new regulations will come into effect as soon as April. It will mean that all new claimants of Universal Credit must be earning less than £7,400 a year to be eligible for FSM. Families who already receive FSM and have no changes to their circumstances will continue to be eligible until 2022 and until their child leaves their current phase of education (ie primary into secondary school).