Tracy Brabin slams plans that could see thousands in Kirklees miss out on free school meals

Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin has slammed the “callous and cruel” Government for voting in plans that could see over 6,000 children in Kirklees go without a free school meal.

The Conservatives, propped up by the DUP, voted for changes to Universal Credit which will see an income threshold imposed on families in order to receive a free school meal. Under current arrangements all children in families who receive Universal Credit receive the free school meals.

This could result in 6,400 children in Kirklees going without a free school meal, and across Yorkshire and Humber the figure is expected to be more than 97,000, according to estimates by the Children’s Society.

Nationally, about 1m children – many of whom are living in poverty –  could be left to go hungry at school.

As part of the same measure, the government is also removing a free childcare entitlement for 2 year olds from those families with an income above the threshold.

Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin said: “This callous and cruel move by the Government could be the difference between a hot meal and going hungry for children across Batley and Spen and beyond.

“There are an astonishing 13,900 children living in poverty in Kirklees and now almost half of them are set to miss out on a free school meal.

“Along with my Labour colleagues I voted against this move and urged Conservative MPs to listen to their consciences and do the same.

“But sadly they did not heed our repeated warnings which are backed up by figures from one of the leading children’s charities in the country.

“The vote yesterday also showed us that this Government are not even consistent in their cruelty as they protected Northern Ireland from the cuts to buy the DUP’s support.”

The new income threshold will create a cliff-edge which will mean that some parents could be better off either reducing their hours, or not taking additional hours or pay-rises, because moving just above the threshold would leave them hundreds of pounds worse off for each child.

There was some better news on the day, with the Government extending the free childcare vouchers scheme for six months due to pressure from Ms Brabin and her colleagues.

“The Government would not have made this concession were it not for our campaigning,” said Ms Brabin.

“Those on low and middle incomes can still save more on this scheme and I will continue to call the Government to reverse their decision to close it and extend it to the self-employed.”

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