|Date:||05 April 2018|
|Authors:||Robert Joyce and Tom Waters|
The government has finally confirmed how it plans to assess eligibility for free school meals (FSMs) under universal credit (UC) – awarding them to families on UC with net earnings under £7,400 a year. New analysis published today by the IFS, and funded by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, finds that overall slightly more children from low-income households will be eligible for FSMs under UC once it is fully rolled out than would have qualified under the legacy system it replaces – an increase of roughly 50,000 children (or 4%), costing the Exchequer an extra £20-30 million per year. But this net change hides many more winners and losers:
Tom Waters, an IFS Research Economist and an author of the new analysis, said “The change in the structure of the benefits system inherent in universal credit means that the government was always going to have to come up with a new way of determining which children qualify for free school meals. This meant it either had to spend more public money on them in total or create some losers. Its chosen path does a combination of the two. It creates a substantial number of losers, but also a greater number of winners, with children of lone parents and of working parents especially likely to gain entitlement.”
1. The full briefing note ‘Free school meals under universal credit’ by Robert Joyce and Tom Waters, will be published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies on Thursday, 5 April 2018 on the IFS website. For embargoed copies of the report or other queries, contact the IFS Press Office on 020 7291 4800 / 07730 667013 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. The authors are grateful to the Children’s Commissioner who funded this research.
3. Support from the ESRC-funded Centre for the Microeconomic Analysis of Public Policy (ES/M010147/1) at the IFS is also gratefully acknowledged. Data from the Family Resources Survey were made available by the Department for Work and Pensions, which bears no responsibility for the interpretation of the data in this briefing note.