The Conservatives are playing us all for fools over their cut to eligibility for free school meals – but they are not succeeding.
Frances Kay, a writer living in Mid Wales (home of Vox Political), has written to Brecon and Radnorshire’s Tory MP Chris Davies, berating him for supporting the plan to ensure that any child with parents earning more than £7,000 will not qualify for free school meals.
She wrote: “You voted to deny meals to children in poverty. I don’t know how you square this with your conscience. I dare say you have some tweaked statistics to prove that this action of yours was not cruel, inconsiderate, heartless and completely out of touch with ordinary people and their concerns.
“Do you ever put food into the huge bins in Tesco waiting for food bank donations? I do, on my very tiny state pension.
“Do you have friends who are single parents trying to work and bring up kids, and still not bringing enough money home to feed them properly?
“Do you even know what it’s like trying to learn when you are too hungry to think straight? Teachers are bringing sandwiches to give their pupils.
“Your government, which you are so proud to prop up, has dragged our social democracy back into the days of Dickens. The poor are undeserving, aren’t they? They don’t have to be poor, do they, it’s their choice? Please do not lay that flattering unction to your soul.
“Families are now in poverty and working full time and they still cannot make ends meet.
“You know it to be true that our society is a pyramid, where in order for the very few at the top to live in the comfort they desire, you must be supported by the rest of us. No one chooses to be poor. No one chooses to go to food banks.
“I suppose you are a perfect example of today’s Tories. History will condemn this government for their shameful actions which are causing suffering to so many.
“I wish that just once you would speak up for your constituents who aren’t lucky enough to have your expense account, your pensionable income, and your shamefully subsidised canteens and bars.
“Truly, we the people cannot afford you and your policies.”
Mr Davies responded: “The introduction of Universal Credit offers a less fragmented, more fairly targeted system that will ensure more children will benefit from free school meals.
“Free school meals are rightly targeted at the children who need them most, with around 14 per cent of children eligible for and claiming free school meals last year. The approach of setting an income threshold is comparable to the approach taken in Scotland where a similar net earnings threshold was introduced in August 2017.
“The Department for Education recently ran a public consultation, seeking the views of parents, schools, local authorities and charities on eligibility for free school meals. In light of this, the Department has proposed transitional protections so that nobody currently receiving free school meals will lose their entitlement when moving onto Universal Credit.
“Recent estimates suggest that by 2022, around 50,000 more children will benefit from a free school meal compared to the previous benefits system.”
This is what Tory James Cleverly has been trumpeting on Twitter:
— James Cleverly (@JamesCleverly) March 14, 2018
It’s based on a Channel 4 fact-check which states: “There’s some respectable maths behind Labour’s claim that a million children will lose out on free school meals after the government introduces a means test.
“But they haven’t mentioned two key points:
- No one who is currently eligible for free school meals under Universal Credit will lose their entitlement.
- In fact, under Universal Credit, 50,000 more children will receive school meals by 2022 than would have done under the previous benefits system.
“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.”
There’s only one problem with that: It isn’t true.
A system that takes entitlement to a benefit away from a child because they were born a day after their friend is not more generous. Saying that nobody who currently receives a benefit will lose their entitlement doesn’t change the fact that younger school pupils won’t have the same privileges.
And let us remember that entitlement is being restricted to pupils whose parents earn £7,000 a year – or less.
So, between now and 2022, all things being equal, far fewer children are going to receive a free school meal.
The only possible reason more pupils will have free meals is if more parents fall into poverty – if their earnings fall below £7,000 a year.
That’s the only reason the Tories would be suggesting this outcome, as far as This Writer can tell.
Now, just what makes the Tories think that’s going to happen? What do they know that we don’t?
One more thing:
— Lizzie (@flelizi) March 19, 2018
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