Free school meal plan is a “cut disguised as a kindness”

The Government’s free school meals plan threatens to leave children hungry and cut jobs, according to the union that represents school catering and lunchtime supervision staff.

GMB has responded to the Department for Education’s consultation on free school meal entitlement under Universal Credit, saying the plans are a “cut disguised as a kindness.”

The response casts doubt on the Government’s claim that more pupils will be entitled to free school meals than under the current system.

The union’s analysis reveals that:

  • Under the £7,400 household earnings cap, which is due to be implemented in April 2018, only the lowest earning 20 per cent of households would be entitled to free school meals
  • 65 per cent of expenditure on free school meals currently benefits households outside this group, which strongly suggests that there will be a significant loss of free school meals entitlement for thousands of pupils.
  • The Children’s Society has warned that up to a million disadvantaged pupils are at risk of losing out under the new system.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said: “These plans should concern all parents and everyone who works in schools.

“At least one hot, nutritious meal a day should be a fundamental right for all pupils. Instead thousands of kids from deprived backgrounds are now being threatened by a new cut disguised as a kindness.

“GMB members working in schools already encounter children with no food at home, and see packed lunches of no more than crisps or chocolate, because parents are struggling to make ends meet.

“This arbitrary £7,400 earnings cap, which takes no account of household need or the number of children that parents need to provide for, will force people to negotiate down their working hours or leave work altogether just to make ends meet.

“It makes a mockery of the Government’s claim that it is making work pay.

“GMB’s former President, Mary Turner, was a dinner lady who spent her life campaigning to make sure our kids don’t go hungry. In her member – and for the thousands of GMB members who work in schools, an children across the country – we will continue to campaign for free school meals for all.”

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