A bill that would see millions more school children across the UK entitled to free school meals has seen its second reading in Parliament rescheduled on Friday (January 20). Labour MP Zarah Sultana, who put forward the Free School Meals For All proposal, has accused the Tory party of ‘blocking’ the legislation.
The aim of the scheme - which would been given the title Free School Meals Act 2023 - was to extend the eligibility of free school meals to all children in state primary schools in England and Wales. According to government figures, just under 1.9 million children are currently receiving free school meals.
Parliament were due for a second reading of the bill on Friday, though due to running out of time it has been rescheduled for another time. Instead, Ms Sultana has accused Conservative MPs of ‘blocking’ the proposal.
Ms Sultana sponsored the legislation to provide support to the 800,000 children living in poverty who are not currently eligible for free school meals. She said the bill will “ease the pressure for every family, and help ensure every child has the basics to learn, grow and thrive”.
The Member of Parliament posted her reaction to the second read reshceduling of the Free School Meals For All Bill on Twitter. She confirmed the battle to get the bill passed is “not over”.
Zarah Sultana wrote: “The Tories just ‘blocked’ my Bill to extend free school meals to all primary school children, but this isn’t over. I’ll bring it back to Parliament – and when I do, I need even more MPs backing it. Ask your MP to back the Bill!”
The decision as to which child is entitled to the benefit is currently dependent on their age, where they live and the family income. They may be eligible if the parent or carer is claiming any of the following benefits:
- Income support
- Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- The guaranteed element of pension credit
- Income-related employment and support allowance
- Working tax credit run-on – paid for four weeks after stopping work
- Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- Child tax credit, as long as you don’t also receive working tax credit and earn no more than £16,190 (£17,005 in Scotland). In Scotland, you can get free school meals if you’re on child tax credit and working tax credit, but you have to be earning less than £7,920
- Universal credit, if someone applied since April 2018 and their income is less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including benefits). If someone applied for UC before then, there is no income threshold. In Scotland, your monthly-earned income on UC must be lower than £660. In Northern Ireland, the threshold is almost twice that of England and Scotland’s at £14,000.
Any child whose family receives any of these benefits is entitled to free school lunches. To apply for free school meals, visit the UK government website for further details and information.