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Primary Education: Free School Meals

Question for Department for Education

UIN 258, tabled on 10 May 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether he has made representations to Cabinet colleagues on the potential merits of making free school meals available to all primary school children for the purposes of supporting families with the rising cost of living.

Answered on

18 May 2022

The provision of free school meals (FSM) to children from out-of-work families or those on low incomes is of the utmost importance to this government. Under the benefits-related criteria, the department provides a free healthy meal to around 1.7 million children, ensuring they are well-nourished and can concentrate, learn and achieve in the classroom.

Under this government, eligibility for FSM has been extended several times and to more groups of children than any other government over the past half a century, including the introduction of universal infant FSM, and further education FSM.

In addition to this, the temporary extension of FSM eligibility to some groups with no recourse to public funds that has been in place since 2020 was extended to all groups and made permanent, subject to income thresholds.

The department thinks it is right that provision is aimed at supporting the most disadvantaged, those out of work or on the lowest incomes. We do not have any plans to extend universal provision but we will continue to keep all free school meal eligibility under review, to ensure that these meals are supporting those who most need them.

The government is continuing to provide targeted cost of living support for households most in need. Through the Household Support Fund, the government is providing an additional £500 million to help households with the cost of household essentials, on top of what we have already provided since October 2021, bringing the total funding for this support to £1 billion.