POLITICS: Free school meals remain

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There has been a great deal of news coverage this week regarding free school meals.

Many have written to me concerned and angry because they have been told by Labour politicians that free school meals are being removed.

This is completely false and has been exposed as such by independent fact-checking organisations. To the contrary, I am committed to ensuring that disadvantaged, young people are able to access a free, nutritious meal at school.

I have always believed in working together in politics to ensure that we help those most in need and give our children the best start in life. I find it sad that Labour has chosen to spin this story to try to score cheap political points.

The facts are these: No child will lose their meals during the rollout of Universal Credit as a result of these changes; our plans mean an extra 50,000 children will be eligible for a nutritious meal at school by 2022.

Labour’s claim that our changes could leave over a million children without this is misleading.

Since 2010, we have extended the availability of free school meals to disadvantaged students in further education and introduced universal infant free school meals.

When Universal Credit was introduced, the Government was clear that it would set a new criteria for free school meals. To ensure that no one was adversely affected during its roll-out, it temporarily made Universal Credit a qualifying benefit for free school meals, regardless of income. As was made clear at the time, this was always an interim measure.

We actually voted to extend the eligibility of free school meals by an extra 50,000 children.

While Labour continues to play party politics, I will be working with the Government to help disadvantaged children and ensure that we continue to deliver free school meals in Northumberland and across the United Kingdom.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan,

Member of Parliament for Berwick-upon-Tweed