Following the two public consultations my Department ran recently, I am pleased to announce my intention to lay regulations in the House later today that will introduce net earned income thresholds under universal credit for free school meals, the early years pupil premium, and the early education entitlement for disadvantaged two-year-olds.
This approach is consistent with how other Government Departments have set criteria for other “passported” benefits.
The changes will come into force on 1 April 2018 for the start of the school summer term. Under our proposals, we estimate that by 2022 around 50,000 more children will benefit from a free school meal compared to the previous benefits system. In addition, we will apply transitional protection to anyone currently receiving free school meals.
These changes do not affect the criteria for universal infant free school meals, which will continue to be available to all pupils in reception, year 1 and year 2 regardless of parental income.
For free school meals and the early years pupil premium we are introducing a net earnings threshold of £7,400 per annum. A typical family earning around £7,400 per annum would, depending on their exact circumstances, have a total household income of between £18,000 and £24,000 once benefits are taken into account.
For the early education entitlement for disadvantaged two-year-olds, we are introducing a net earnings threshold of £15,400 per annum. Under this new threshold, we estimate that by 2023 around 7,000 more children will benefit from the two-year-old entitlement compared to the previous benefits system.
The Government’s responses to these consultations have been published on the Department for Education’s website, and copies of the regulations will be laid shortly.