Double earnings threshold for free schools meal, says Welsh assembly members

As reported by the BBC, members of The National Assembly for Wales (AMs) have said that the earnings threshold for families entitled to free school meals (FSM) should double in 2020

Under the current system, the children of parents who receive universal credit and earn less than £7,400 qualify for FSM.

But an Assembly committee said Welsh government should consider increasing the limit to £14,000 next September.

Universal credit applies to the whole of the UK, but FSM are allocated differently in the devolved nations.

The £7,400 FSM earnings threshold was introduced in April, but AMs said it should increase “as a matter of principle”.

Depending on individual circumstances, a typical family earning £7,400 a year would have a total household income of between £18,000 and £24,000 a year once benefits are taken into account.

Scotland and England have a similar earnings threshold to Wales, but the Trussell Trust food bank charity said Wales should match Northern Ireland where the threshold is £14,000.

AMs want a feasibility study carried out in time for the start of the next academic year to work out “if the increase is financially viable”.

The Welsh government has commissioned a study into the issue, having previously rejected calls for the devolution of welfare powers.

Almost half of people in Wales receive some sort of benefit, under a system that is largely controlled from Westminster.

Committee chairman John Griffiths AM said the current welfare system was not working for “far too many people”.

“We repeatedly hear that benefits are not enough to cover basic and essential household costs, and the system does not treat people with dignity, fairness or compassion,” he said.

“The human cost of these failures is unacceptable, in one of the world’s largest national economies.

“Whilst recommending that Welsh government explore opportunities to devolve more control of benefits to Wales, our recommendations emphasise what can be done now, within the current settlement, and in the longer term.”

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