Vulnerable children from low paid families face missing out on vouchers during school holidays

On 28 May 2020, following our 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 £7,400 to £16,190 per year. For more information read here.

However, the Government subsequently failed to take the simple step of updating its guidance to confirm the new income threshold despite having committed to do so more than four weeks ago.

Consequently, children from low paid working families who are struggling to survive on low incomes have been left unable to access the vouchers to which they are entitled. The Government’s delay means that they now risk missing out on registering in time to access vouchers to cover the summer holidays. Many of these children, including our clients who brought this case, will be children of keyworkers such as carers and NHS staff on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus.

Today, we wrote to the Government on our clients’ behalf to request that they immediately update their guidance as they promised to do, and to publicise the change to avoid children continuing to go hungry.

We also urged the Government to further increase the earnings threshold to ensure that our clients remain eligible for free school meals as even the new threshold continues to unfairly disadvantage children from NRPF families.

Solicitor Rachel Etheridge says:

 “The Government’s decision to extend free school meals, albeit temporarily, to children of certain NRPF groups no doubt benefited many children. However, the Government’s implementation of the extension has been beset with difficulties.

“Originally, the Government capped the earnings to a limit which was so low even children from part time care workers were ineligible for the support.

“Following threat of court action, the Government increased the threshold but it still remains lower than that which is applied to families who are able to supplement their income through welfare benefits.

“Despite the Prime Minister’s commitment during PMQs on 17 June 2020 that children from families with NRPF should receive the extra help during holidays, the Government has not taken the simple step of updating the guidance with the new income threshold to make this possible for children of low income families.

“We urge the Government to make good on their promises to ensure that our clients and other vulnerable children in their position are safeguarded”.

If you have any questions please contact Rachel Etheridge of MG&Co.