Cuts Watch #41: Free School Meals cut
Despite Ian Duncan Smith’s (Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) recent speech on the importance of ensuring people are truly better off in low-paid work, the Coalition has decided to axe plans to provide children from low paid families with access to free school meals. This measure would have extended entitlement to about 500,000 families in work on low pay from September this year, with the extension of this important passported benefit (which is currently lost as parents move into work) making a real difference to the take home incomes of low-paid families.
Imran Hussain, head of policy, rights and advocacy at CPAG, said:
“Suspending this support is the same as an income-tax hike of GBP600 a year for a working poor family with two children. This is the equivalent of at least a 1% income-tax hike per child for the families it was meant to help.
We were told by the Work and Pensions Secretary it is wrong that families trying to move off benefits face effective tax rates up to 95%, so we are stunned the Government is shelving plans to address this problem. It would have been a very valuable work incentive for those on benefits seeking jobs. It is completely at odds with the coalition’s commitment to end child poverty by 2020.”
In a letter to Shadow Secretary of State Ed Balls MP, Michael Gove said that:
Having examined my options in depth, I have therefore decided that we will not be able to proceed with the additional free school meal pilots or the extension of free school meals to some primary school children this year – though we will proceed with existing pilots so as to assess better the case for increasing eligibility in the future.