Labour right on school meals?

Angela Rayner: over 1m kids could be without a hot meal

FactCheck: Labour aren't telling the full story about free school meals

"It is an absolute scandal that the Conservatives are pressing ahead with a plan that could leave over a million children without a hot meal in schools. "

That was the claim from Labour's shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, last week.

But it's not quite the full story. Here's why.

Who gets a free school meal?

Children in England who are in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 are all entitled to free school meals. That’s not changing. Where it gets complicated is when we look at what happens from Year 3 onwards.

Since 2013, the government has been rolling out Universal Credit, replacing the old benefits system. Some areas, like Croydon, have already switched; others are still waiting.

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 16 hours a week (if there’s one adult in the house), or 24 hours a week (if there are two).

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Free school meals

Can my child get free school meals?

All infant school pupils (every child in reception, year 1 and year 2) in state funded schools in England are eligible for a free school meal. Disadvantaged students at sixth form colleges and further education colleges are also eligible for free school meals.

All school children from primary one to three in state schools in Scotland are entitled to a free school meal as well.

If you are in Northern Ireland or Wales (or in England or Scotland and your child is not covered by the rules above) for your child to qualify for free school meals, you must get one of the following benefits:

  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance,
  • Income Support
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance,
  • Universal Credit
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