Will Universal Credit affect free school meals in Wales?

Children in Wales could lose out on free school meals because of Universal Credit, according to the Daily Post

Changes in benefit rules in Wales may mean that pupils who would normally be entitled to free school meals won’t be soon, thanks to the introduction of Universal Credit.

The Welsh government will be deciding who is eligible for this support.

Children from households that received certain benefits were automatically entitled to free school meals prior to Universal Credit.

Now, all benefits will be combined into one payment.

Education minister, Kirsty Williams, announced last week that it will now be judged on how much money the family earns.

Denbighshire councillor Rhys Thomas, Plaid Cymru councillor for Denbigh Lower, is concerned that some families may struggle to keep up with Universal Credit payments if they don’t qualify for free meals.

He said: “We’re concerned that families who are hit by the new Universal Credit system won’t be able to afford to pay for school meals for their children.

“It will take time to work out the eligibility criteria to enable some children to receive free school meals and it’s vital that those pupils are not refused school meals in the meantime.”

The Welsh government has responded by claiming that more children will actually be brought into the scheme.

A spokesperson for the Welsh government, said: “Our most up-to-date analysis suggests around 3,000 more children will benefit from a free school meal by the time Universal Credit is fully rolled out in 2023-24 because of the threshold we are introducing.

“Alongside this, we are introducing transitional protection funding, which will mean that no child will lose their free school meals during the rollout of Universal Credit, and then until the end of their school phase.

“We have allocated an additional £12m to support local authorities to meet the costs associated with the changes.”

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