Cuts to Free School Meals

Stephen Hepburn, the Labour MP for the Jarrow Constituency, has slammed the Tory Government after they pressed ahead with controversial cuts to free school meals for children in England.

Campaigners and charities have claimed that up to one million children would be denied eligibility to free school meals under the Government’s Universal Credit plans.

According to research by The Children’s Society around 1,700 children in South Tyneside alone and just under 40,000 children in the North East could miss out on free school meals under these changes.

Under existing legislation, transitional arrangements were in place to ensure that all families that are claiming Universal Credit are entitled to Free School Meals.

However, the Government is now introducing a means-tested system which means free meals will stop if the family earns £7,400 a year. The changes mean a million more children living in poverty could lose their free school meals once Universal Credit is fully rolled out.

The vote was held on ‘whether the Free School Lunches and Milk, and School and Early Years Finance (Amendments Relating to Universal Credit) (England) Regulations 2018 should be annulled.’

Mr Hepburn voted against the proposed changes but the Conservatives won the vote after Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs sided with the Government and pressed ahead with the decision.

DUP MPs who voted with the Government to push through the changes in England have been heavily criticised in recent days as the earnings threshold in Northern Ireland at which free school meals are stopped is double the figure for families in England. 

Stephen Hepburn MP said: “It is very disappointing that Tory and DUP MPs voted to force through these reckless changes that will hit poorest families in England the hardest.


“Despite losing the vote, I was proud to vote against these changes and will continue to fight in Parliament for decent childcare and oppose the Tories in denying free school meals for some of the most deprived children in the Jarrow Constituency and South Tyneside as well as across England.


“Decisions like this made by the Tories shows why we need a Labour Government in place to extend childcare provision and provide free school meals for all primary school children.”

Meet your MP


Stephen Hepburn has served the Jarrow Constituency as MP since 1997.

He was last elected to serve in June 2017 and won the seat with a conclusive 17,263 majority.

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