Banburyshire MPs justify their votes on free school lunches

North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis NNL-150826-094619001
North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis NNL-150826-094619001

Banburyshire MPs Victoria Prentis (Banbury) and Andrea Leadsom (South Northants) stood by their votes last week to change the thresholds for free lunches for school pupils.

Mrs Prentis responded to constituent Roy Parker who claimed a million children would lose a much-needed hot meal because of changes in Universal Credit (UC) rules.

Only 65 per cent of those eligible take up the free meals, often because parents are unaware of their entitlement.

Mrs Prentis said: “When UC was introduced, the government was clear it would set a new criteria for free school meals. To ensure no one was adversely affected during its roll out, the government made UC a qualifying benefit for free school meals, regardless of income.

“This was always an interim measure. The proposed changes to eligibility have been designed to ensure support is targeted exactly where is it needed most, to ensure those on the lowest incomes remain the focus of free school meals.”

Children in England in reception, Year 1 and Year 2 are entitled to free school meals and that is not changing.

A Channel 4 guide recommended by Mrs Prentis says: “Where it gets complicated is when we look at what happens from Year 3 onwards.

“Since 2013, the government has been rolling out UC, replacing the old benefits system. Under the old system, children are entitled to free school meals if their parents receive an out of work benefit like Jobseekers’ Allowance. They only lose their entitlement once their parent or parents start working...”

Parents should check this eligibility while working.

“While the government have been rolling out the new system, they’ve relaxed the eligibility rules so all families receiving UC have been entitled to free school meals, regardless of income or hours worked,” says Channel 4.

“This month, the government announced they’re going to introduce a means test so if you’re on UC and earning more than £7,400 from work, your children will no longer be entitled to free school meals if they’re in year 3 or above.”

Mrs Leadsom said: “Last week’s vote ensured a further 50,000 children on top of those who currently receive free school meals will be eligible and I was delighted to support it.”