19/04/2012

Children's Society Warns Benefit Changes Could Leave Children Hungry

A children’s charity has warned that plans to simplify the welfare system could result in thousands of England's poorest children missing out on free school meals.

The meals are linked to low-income benefits that are among those merging into a single Universal Credit in 2013.

In a report, the Children's Society said ministers were considering an income cap for eligibility that could leave 120,000 families worse off.

However the government has said it is determined to ensure no needy child misses out.

The society has estimated that it would cost £500m to extend free school meals to all families on Universal Credit.

It said ministers were instead considering limiting it to households with earnings below a certain level, thought to be about £145 a week.

The charity said that would create a benefit cliff-edge that could see 120,000 families worse off if they worked longer or earned more.

"The government has an unique opportunity to extend free school meals to all low-income working families, so that no child living in poverty misses out,” Children's Society's campaign for childhood director, Elaine Hindal, has said.

"This would be in line with the government's aim to make work pay by paving the way for many families to return to employment and help lift them out of poverty."

(H)


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