POLITICS
20/03/2018 22:16 GMT | Updated 21/03/2018 11:19 GMT

Lords Call On Government To Re-Think Free School Meals Cuts

'No family should be worrying that their kids are going hungry at school.'

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Ministers are being urged to re-think plans to cut free school meals in England after a defeat in the House of Lords. 

Peers backed a motion tabled by Labour’s Steve Bassam on Tuesday evening, which calls on the government to delay implementing changes to its free school meals policy until a full impact assessment is carried out. 

Charities and other campaigners claim that the welfare reforms tied to universal credit would see up to a million children denied eligibility for free lunches if the changes are rolled out nationwide. 

Bassm said he was “delighted” with the 167-160 vote in his favour. 

“My mum would have been proud,” he posted on Twitter.

“Now the Govt should honour the terms of the motion, halt the introduction of the cuts and bring forward a poverty impact assessment before making any changes.”

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said she was “extremely happy” with the result. 

Labour has called on the government to halt the proposals - which do not apply in Northern Ireland, therefore protecting constituencies represented by the Democratic Unionist Party from any curbs.

“Tory and DUP MPs may have forced through changes that will hit the poorest families the hardest, but Labour will continue fighting for decent childcare and opposing the Tories’ decision to deny free school meals to up to a million of England’s most deprived children,” she previously told HuffPost UK.

“The next Labour government will extend childcare provision and provide free school meals for all primary school children.”

Rayner added that Labour’s pressure, the Conservatives had now been forced to delay closing the childcare vouchers scheme for at least another six months. 

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Any suggestion we are taking free school meals away from children that have them is wrong. Under universal credit, we estimate that around 50,000 more children will benefit from free school meals by 2022, compared to the previous benefits system.

“It’s right that we continue to support the most disadvantaged children and our changes – which we consulted on – will mean that all children currently receiving a free meal will continue to do so.”

They added that the department is investing “up to” £26 million in a breakfast club programme, targeting areas of high poverty.

“Healthy breakfast clubs can play an important role in ensuring children from all backgrounds have a healthy start to their day so that they can reach their learning potential,” they said.