From 1st April 2018, a huge change is being introduced to free school meals eligibility.
Here’s the policy explained.
Currently all families on Universal Credit can claim free school meals. This offer was designed as a transitional measure, to help people as they move to the new “six-in-one” benefit.
It’s more generous than for the rest of the population, who get guaranteed free meals only in reception, Year 1 and Year 2.
But now, under a new law, eligibility for free school meals is changing.
When does it take effect?
The change takes effect on 1st April 2018.
Will my child lose their free school lunch?
The short answer is no!
If you’re already on Universal Credit, your child’s free lunches won’t disappear on 1st April no matter what you earn.
But the long answer is more complicated, because the whole debate is about future entitlement to free school meals.
Here’s a breakdown.
If you are ALREADY on Universal Credit
If you are already on Universal Credit, your child is entitled to free school meals no matter what – for now.
That will not change after the policy comes into effect on 1st April, even if your earnings tip over the £7,400 threshold.
Instead your child will be will be protected until 31 March 2022 or “the end of their phase of education”, whichever is later.
So if they’re in primary school, they’ll covered to the end of Year 6, and if they’re in secondary school they’ll be covered to the end of Year 11.
This is for children already in school.
If you have a baby now, they won’t be guaranteed a free school meal because they won’t have signed up it by 2022.
If you’re moving to Universal Credit in FUTURE
If you aren’t on Universal Credit yet, but are moving to it in future, you are affected.
If you earn more than £7,400 a year: Your child will NOT be eligible for free school meals.
If you earn less than £7,400 a year: Your child WILL be eligible for free school meals.
If you’re under the £7,400 threshold now, but then tip over it later by getting a better-paid job, your child will remain eligible until 31 March 2022 or the end of their “phase of education”, whichever is later.
Why is 31 March 2022 so important?
31st March 2022 is when a lot of exemptions end because it’s when Universal Credit will finish being ‘rolled out’ across the country.
If you move off Universal Credit entirely
We’ve been unable to find any information about what might happen if you stop claiming Universal Credit entirely.
However, the protections mentioned above apply to people who are affected by the new rules – in other words, people on Universal Credit but whose earnings are above £7,400. If you leave a benefit, you tend to leave entitlement to things associated with that benefit.
How will your earnings be calculated?
The £7,400 refers specifically to net earned income – so the amount you take from jobs, investments etc (NOT benefits) in a year.
There will be monthly checks on people’s income, verified from “the most recent Universal Credit assessment period.”
If this can’t be done, it will be based on data from the previous two or three assessment periods.
Guidance will be given to schools and councils on how to conduct eligibility checks.