Universal credit leading to “unprecedented” levels of debt and people “stealing” to survive

Appeals for the Conservatives to drop universal credit have been aired after new research revealed up to 100,000 children are set to miss out on free school meals because of new government thresholds.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned the roll-out of benefit system reforms ‘will create a substantial number of losers’ among families whose children receive free school meals.

Up to 100,000 children from low-income families will lose out on free school meals because of the government’s method for setting the threshold at which pupils qualify, prompting accusations the Conservatives are “consciously” targeting poor children.

The IFS said the decision to discount inflation when freezing the threshold for the next four years means thousands of children miss out.

Commenting on the findings, Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, said: “By failing to uprate the eligibility threshold, the government will allow up to 100,000 children in low income families to slip through the cracks and lose out on this vital benefit.

“Just like their freeze on social security as a whole, this is a conscious choice by the Tories to withdraw support from the children and families who need it most.

“The Institute for Fiscal Studies has clearly shown that the government has not been straightforward with the families who will lose their eligibility for free school meals.

“Ministers claimed time and time again that nobody would lose a meal under their plans, but the IFS have revealed that one in eight children who were eligible before universal credit could find their meals taken away once the Tories’ plans are imposed in full.”

She added: “Yet again, the Tories are fiddling the figures rather than facing the facts. They wrongly claimed they were increasing schools funding, were caught double counting the same money on breakfasts and now their defence of cutting back on school meals has fallen apart.

“It is time for the government to think again and abandon plans that would leave so many children ineligible for a hot meal, and listen to Labour’s call for universal free school meals for all primary pupils.”

 

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