School Wristbands Blog

Universal Credit - What does it mean for free school meals?

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Universal Credit is a social security benefit introduced in the UK in 2013 to replace six means-tested benefits and tax credits: income based Jobseeker's Allowance, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, income based Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support.


All children in reception, Year One and Two currently automatically qualify for free school meals in England and Scotland. Eligibility for free school meals from Year Three is linked to benefits, and the system of calculating and claiming benefits is changing.


In February the government announced that children in Year Three and above in England whose parents earn up to £7,400 a year would be entitled to a free school meal. This figure is slightly lower at £7,320 for Scotland, and almost double in Northern Ireland at £14,000.


These earnings thresholds are not currently linked to inflation - the IFS (Institute for Fiscal Studies) advises that 100,000 extra children would be eligible for free school meals by 2022 if the thresholds were linked to inflation.