One in eight children who would have qualified for free school meals under the old system will become ineligible under universal credit.
The Government has confirmed that families on universal credit with net earnings under £7,400 a year will be able to claim free school meals.
New research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found the new criteria means 50,000 more children will be eligible for free school meals.
This amounts to a 4% increase on the current numbers and will cost the Government an extra £20-30m per year.
Funded by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, the research found about 210,000 children who would not have qualified for free school meals under the old system will gain entitlement under universal credit.
However, it also means 160,000 — or one in eight — of the 1.3 million children who would have qualified under the legacy system will find themselves ineligible after the reforms.
‘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,’ said Tom Waters, an IFS research economist.
‘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.’