15 Jul Government finally introduces a fairer earnings threshold to low paid NRPF families for free school meals but delays mean children could miss out on Summer Food Fund
On 10 July, following another threat of judicial review, the Government confirmed that the maximum earnings threshold for free school meals for children from families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) would be increased from £16,190 per year to £31,500 to families within London and £28,200 per year to families outside London.
However, delays have meant that families have less than a week to apply for the Covid Summer Food Fund.
We represented three children, two of whom are British. Their parents had leave to remain subject to an exclusion from claiming welfare benefits (a “No Recourse to Public Funds” condition). Their mother is a care worker for the elderly and was the sole bread winner whilst covid 19 restrictions were in place. The NRPF condition meant that our clients could not claim welfare benefits to supplement their income. That was in sharp contrast to other families on the same earnings, who are able to claim Universal credit and child benefit to supplement their income.
Originally, the earnings limit for NRPF families was so low even the Claimants who are children of part time care worker were ineligible for the support. Following the first threat of court action, the Government increased the threshold but it still remained lower than that which was applied to families who are able to supplement their income through welfare benefits.
After this second threat of court action, the Government agreed to further increase the limit as set out above.
However, in order to access the Covid Summer food Fund, newly eligible children will have to register for free school meals before term time ends and are quickly running out of time to do so. To make matters worse, at the time of writing, the Government has yet to update its guidance to reflect the new limit despite planning to have done so by end of day 13 July.
Solicitor Rachel Etheridge says:
“Although we welcome another u-turn by the Government which amounts to an almost doubling of the earnings threshold applied to NRPF families seeking free school meals, it is very disappointing that this has required three months of campaigning by a number of charities and two threats of court action by our clients. These delays have meant that families have been left with less than a week to register for free school meals ahead of the summer holidays. This of great concern given that the children who stand to benefit from the concession are amongst the poorest and most vulnerable in society as their parents are often employed in low paid jobs as key workers and are unable to claim benefits. The fact they have been left having to scamper to register for the Summer Food Fund before the end of term is not acceptable”.