MP Lucy Frazer has defended her decision to vote in favour of government reforms to free school meal entitlements, saying “no child will lose their meals”.
The South East Cambridgeshire MP has rejected claims by the Children’s Society that 10,400 children in poverty across Cambridgeshire will miss out on free meals.
Ms Frazer told Spotted in Ely today that more children will qualify for free meals, not less, under government reforms.
“It is important to be clear that under the new eligibility criteria for free school meals, no child will lose their meals during the rollout of universal credit as a result of these changes.”
According to the Children’s Society a million impoverished children across the country will miss out on free school meals, including 10,400 across Cambridgeshire, under universal credit changes.
As the new benefit has been rolling out, all families receiving it have been automatically entitled to free school meals.
A new system of means testing will create a “cliff edge” where many working families would be better off taking a pay cut, the Children’s Society says.
The Children’s Society is a Christian charity supporting vulnerable children in England and Wales.
Chief executive Matthew Reed said that under the welfare reforms, once a family with one child passes the £7,400 threshold, they would need to earn £1,124 a year more – the equivalent of working 2.4 hours more each week at national living wage – to make up for the loss in free school meals.
“There are significant, proven benefits for children’s health, education and their futures in making sure they have a healthy lunch every day, but at least one million children will miss out if this change is introduced.”
However, Ms Frazer refuted these claims, saying many families will be better off under government reforms.
She said: “The government is not taking away free school meals from children.
“In fact, the government’s plans mean an extra 50,000 children will be eligible for a nutritious meal at school by 2022.
“Channel 4 News commissioned a Fact Check on this issue, which reached the following conclusion: ‘This is not a case of the government taking free school meals from a million children who are currently receiving them: it’s about comparing two future, hypothetical scenarios. Both of them are more generous than the old benefits system.’”
Ms Frazer encourages concerned constituents to contact her directly so that she can “personally address their specific concerns.”