Hungry kids don’t learn

Is Maria Caulfield being as truthful as she claims? (MP’s anger over Labour claims of cuts for free school meals provision, March 16).

She mentions that children in England in Reception 1 and 2 who are entitled to free school meals will continue to be so. But it gets complicated when we look at what happens from year 3 onwards.

The government has announced that they are going to introduce a means test so that future claimants of Universal Credit (being rolled out in Lewes District in September) earning more than £7,400 from work,will no longer be entitled to claim free school meals for children in year 3 and above. The government has estimated (note the verb) that a family earning around £7400 would actually have an annual household income between £18 and 24 thousand once benefits are taken into account. The Children’s Society has calculated that if the government continued to allow every family on UC to receive free school meals, 2.8 million children would be entitled. Unfortunately people don’t always know their entitlements and only about 65% of eligible children actually take them up. On that basis, the Children’s Society would expect about 1.8 million children on UC to take up free school meals. The means test will reduce the total number of children entitled to free school meals to 1 million and probably only 650,000 will actually take them up. That is why Labour suggests that a million children will be losing out.

Labour has pledged to give all primary school children a free school meal. Hungry children do not learn.

Teresa O’Brien

Corsica Close