IFS Analysis of Free School Meals under Universal Credit
April 20, 2018
Last week, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) published a briefing note which analysed the government’s changes to free school meal eligibility in the wake of universal credit’s rollout.
The briefing note agreed with the government’s estimate that around 50,000 more children would be eligible under the new system compared to the one it replaced. This equates to around 1.3 million children by 2022. However, the IFS analysis revealed that the changes will produce winners and losers, with 160,000 of those children eligible under the old system being ineligible under the new one, while 210,000 children gain entitlement. The IFS’s analysis showed that ‘winners’ would disproportionately come from families working morehours, while ‘losers’ were disproportionately from non-working households.
The analysis also recognised that the eligibility system creates a ‘cliff-edge’ which would lead to families earning just below £7,400 being worse off if their annual earnings increased to just over £7,400. However, the briefing note did recognise that avoiding such a cliff-edge was not ‘straightforward’ with a benefit of this kind.
The briefing note’s conclusion recognised the importance of the government’s policy regarding changes to the threshold after 2021-22, which is currently undecided. An increase with inflation would help to protect or even increase entitlements, whereas no uprating would likely lead to a fall in free school meal entitlements.