From tax rises to spending cuts – what to expect from Jeremy Hunt’s Budget
The UK’s major supermarkets have co-signed a letter urging the Government to commit to expanding eligibility for free school meals in the Budget.
Iceland, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Aldi, Co-op, Waitrose, Asda and Morrisons have written to Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, with chefs Jamie Oliver and Tom Kerridge, calling for free school meals to be expanded to all children from families in England who receive universal credit.
Households in England receiving universal credit must earn below £7,400 a year before benefits and after tax to qualify.
According to the Food Foundation, it is estimated that 800,000 children in England are living in poverty but do not currently qualify.
The retailers write: “In the coming months, food insecurity in the UK will inevitably rise. Increasing energy bills will place pressure on household budgets and limit funds available for food.
“Simultaneously, external pressures are causing everyday groceries to rise in price. Many families are approaching breaking point.
“As food retailers, we witness first-hand the daily struggles our customers face to feed their families. We are committed to doing all we can to support them, with several actions set to be implemented in the coming months, but we cannot do this alone.
“For this reason, we call on the Government to do more to protect children and ease the burden on struggling parents.”
The letter concludes: “So, now, we strongly urge you to consider the scale of children’s food insecurity across the UK and act without delay to prevent its devastating consequences.
“We encourage you to use the Budget announcement on November 17 to commit to expand free school meals to all children from families in England that receive universal credit as a first step to universal provision, so no child has to go through the school day hungry.”
Jamie Oliver said: “It’s mind-boggling that no-one in Government can make the connection that one of the best and most cost-effective safety nets we can offer people is simply giving our most vulnerable kids a free school meal.
“Which is why we’re calling on the Government to do the right thing and commit to an expansion of the free school meals scheme this week.”
Last week, former One Direction star Zayn Malik called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to “give all children living in poverty” a free school meal amid the cost-of-living crisis.
And last month the Government’s food tsar called for the “almost immediate” increase in free school meals.
Henry Dimbleby, who authored the national food strategy, told MPs that expanding provision was “one of the best measures we can do” to address the impact of the rising cost of living.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Over a third of pupils in England currently receive free school meals in education settings and we are investing up to £24 million in our national school breakfast programme, which provides free breakfasts to children in schools in disadvantaged areas.
“In addition, eight million of the most vulnerable households will get at least £1,200 of cost-of-living support this year on top of benefit from the energy price guarantee – meaning they will be eligible for support which exceeds the average rise in energy bills by hundreds of pounds.”
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More than 25,000 children in London are believed to be missing out on free school meals as the cost of living continues to spiral. Since 2018, pupils from households applying for Universal Credit can receive free lunches at school if their income is less than £7,400 a year before benefits and after tax. Up to 26,000 more children in the capital could have been eligible for the benefit had it risen in line with inflation, analysis by the Liberal Democrats found.
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From tax rises to spending cuts – what to expect from Jeremy Hunt’s Budget