Free School Meals

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  • #38007
    Julian Hobson
    Participant

    Another story to watch unfold for many of you. We don’t administer FSM here but might do soon, I know many of you already do and might have been wondering what will happen to it.

    Ministerial statement – yesterday

    WORK AND PENSIONS
    Universal Credit (Review of Passported Benefits)
    The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State responsible for welfare reform, Lord Freud of Eastry, has made the following statement:
    We have commissioned the Social Security Advisory Committee to undertake an independent review of passported benefits and how they link with universal credit. Passported benefits include, for example, free school meals, free milk and vitamins, free prescriptions, optical and dental care.
    The Committee has been asked to produce an advisory report, taking account of the UK Government’s view that changes should not involve a net increase in public expenditure and the benefit system should be as simple as possible. I have placed a copy of the terms of reference in the Library.

    #107034
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Ministerial statement – yesterday

    ‘taking account of the UK Government’s view that changes should not involve a net increase in public expenditure’

    Clearly this is to prevent the situation that as more people start to qualify for UC (well it is after all being heralded as a more generous benefit which will ease the poverty trap for those returning to work) then expenditure on these passported benefits will also start to rise.Sneaky though to get SSAC to do the dirty work in my opinion.OK, you could argue that passported benefits are not really ‘benefits’ as such (ie they are not part of the social security framework of benefits) but I’m nevertheless trying to understand how that body might bring forward recommendations which they then are duty bound to consult on.How can they consult with themselves???

    To me this is a worrying precedent in terms of use of SSAC, or am I just being paranoid.

    #107040
    Julian Hobson
    Participant

    not paranoid at all – I had the very same discussion in the office yesterday. I suppose we are lucky that the SSAC didn’t go in the bonfire of the quangos.

    #107045
    Anonymous
    Guest

    The issue here is that Universal Credit removes the distinctn between in-work and out-of-work benefits and so the traditional passporting criteria become irrelevant. Cuirrently there is entitlement to passported fringe benefits when the claimant receives IS/JSA(ib)/ESA(ir), but if that is simply replaced by a rule that there is passported entitlement when the claimant is on UC the passporting will extend far higher up the income scale than it does now. So the SSAC’s task is to work out how passported fringe benefits can be incorporated into a universal in-work and out-of-work means test. In other words I think this is a technical exercise rather than a political one, which is why SSAC has got the gig.

    I believe one suggestion is that there will be entitlement to free fringe benefits if the claimant’s income is less than the non-housing elements of Universal Credit, and entitlement will taper thereafter (a bit like it does at the moment for NHS supplies). This would get rid of the current “cliff-edge” situation in which passported free school meals are lost as soon as you enter full time work. But somehow this has to be accomplished within an overall constraint that public expenditure cannot rise. Some will argue that the improved work incentives delievered by UC will more than offset the costs of wider entitlement (this is how IDS has sold the whole UC concept to sceptical colleagues), but others in Government will probably take the view that entitlement must be no wider than it is under the current passporting rules.

    #107046
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Can absolutely see the need to review, Peter, but SSAC?

    #107048
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Well one of the SSAC’s official functions is to advise on policy issues referred to it at an early stage, long before there are any draft Regs to consult on, so it is probably not unprecedented for SSAC to carry out its formal scrutiny/consultation role on Regs that it helped to develop in the first place.

    Also, many if not all of the fringe passported benefits are not dierctly within SSAC’s remit – they won’t consult on the draft Regs, other bodies will. For example free prescriptions Regs are made by the Health minister in England and by the devolved Scottish and Welsh administrations: they aren’t social security regs.

    So by involving SSAC at an early stage, DWP is ensuring that future passporting rules are properly informed about the new means-testing architecture.

    Even if the new Regs do eventually come back through SSAC, I cannot really see what is so controversial about that?

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