1,100 Hartlepool children will miss out on free school meal

Fewer children in poverty will be eligible for free school meals under changes to Universal Credit. Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Fewer children in poverty will be eligible for free school meals under changes to Universal Credit. Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Politicians have criticised changes to Universal Credit which a charity says will mean 1,100 Hartlepool children in poverty miss out on free school meals.

Government plans to introduce new means testing for parents claiming Universal Credit have been described as ‘absolutely shameful’.

Councillor Alan Clark

Councillor Alan Clark

The Children’s Charity says around 1,100 out of 2,900 Hartlepool children living in poverty who would have been entitled to a free school meal will miss out in future as a result.

Under the changes parents of children in school Year 3 or above on Universal Credit will no longer be entitled to free school meals if they earn over £7,400.

An attempt by Labour to block the cuts in Parliament failed by 312 votes to 254.

Councillor Alan Clark, chair of Hartlepool’s Children’s Services Committee, said: “This is absolutely shameful and is a damning indictment of this government.

“This is a poverty trap if ever there was one. For a substantial number of children in Hartlepool, the free school meal is the only hot meal they get on a daily basis.

“Taking away that hot meal will only lead to an increase in child and family poverty in the town.

“The council will continue to do all it can to help these families.”

The Department of Education has said no one who currently gets free school meals will lose their entitlement.

In a consultation response it stated: “Under our proposals, we estimate that by 2022 around 50,000 more children will benefit from a free school meal compared to the previous benefits system.

“We also proposed to introduce transitional protections to ensure that existing recipients of free school meals and the early years pupil premium would not lose their entitlement following the introduction of new eligibility criteria.”

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill said: “The Government are making empty promises over free school meals, placing their assertions within the context of Universal Credit roll out, ie if it’s not in it’s not happening.

“In Hartlepool it’s a very different story because we already have Universal Credit and some people are suffering for it.”

Easington MP Grahame Morris added: “For many of these children that meal will be the only hot meal they receive all day with many parents facing further financial strain after years of wage stagnation.”