Labour has criticised the Government for including incorrect information in its free school meals guidance which could lead to children from lower income families going without food this summer.
During the Covid-19 crisis, eligibility for free school meals has been extended to some children with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) and the maximum household earnings threshold for this support was later increased from £7,400 to £16,190 per year. However, since 25th June, the Government’s guidance on eligibility has referred to the old, incorrect earnings threshold of £7,400, which would exclude many of the poorest NRPF families from free school meal support.
Most schools have only been given until 10th July to apply for the COVID Summer Food Fund, and there are fears that many children may be excluded if schools follow the incorrect guidance. The children this will affect are those whose parents are already unable to claim welfare benefits due to their NRPF immigration status, so this mistake could hit those who need free school meals support the most.
Tulip Siddiq MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years, said “Making sure that government guidance is accurate matters. This type of mistake could lead to many of the poorest children going hungry over the summer.
“Schools will be under huge pressure to identify the children who need free school meals over the summer and get applications in before the arbitrary deadline of 10th July. If they have followed the Government’s inaccurate guidance over the last few days, they will have unfairly excluded children whose parents are unable to access other types of welfare support.
“It beggars belief that this incorrect information has been on the Government’s website for nearly a full week. Ministers need to get a grip and do much more to make sure that those who are eligible for support are made aware of it and schools get more assistance to provide it.”