Speaking in the debate in Parliament on Government plans to change rules around free school meal eligibility, Imran expressed his anger that over 10,000 children living in poverty in Bradford will miss out on free school meals under the plans.

Responding to Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner MP, who spoke on figures presented by the Children’s Society showing that over one million children living in poverty will miss out on free school meals as a result of the changes, Mr Hussain highlighted the same figures that show that of the 97,000 children who will be affected in Yorkshire and the Humber, over 10,000 will be in Bradford alone.

Under current arrangements, all families receiving Universal Credit are eligible to receive free school meals, however the Government’s plans which will take effect from 1 April 2018 will impose an earnings threshold of £7,400 that creates a cliff edge and ‘free school meals poverty trap’, leaving many households worse off if their earnings have increased.

According to the Child Poverty Action Group, free school meals bring benefits for health, educational attainment and children’s wellbeing, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and during the 2017 General Election, the Labour Manifesto committed a Labour Government to provide all primary school children with free school meals, to be funded by charging VAT on private school fees.

Speaking on the plans to change free school meal eligibility, Imran said:

“The Prime Minister has found money to exempt Northern Ireland from free school meal rule changes to keep herself in power, but she cannot seem to find it for Bradford and other deprived cities, and it is clear that she is putting her own political interest above the much more important interest of tackling the malnutrition that is one of the most damaging symptoms of child poverty.

“Once again it is innocent children who are bearing the brunt of this Government’s ideological austerity drive that has done nothing but drive down the standard of living, crushed economic growth and caused stagnating wages, and it is high time that the Government stopped punishing children and started investing in their future.“Work is supposed to be the surest way out of poverty, but the Government’s decision to impose this earnings threshold and create a cliff-edge means that many families are better off working fewer hours unless they can substantially increase their earnings to recoup the costs of meals for their children, showing that under this Government, work doesn’t always pay like it should.”

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