The Children’s society have today warned that benefits reform will mean that around 350K children will no longer be entitled to free school meals: those where the household earns over £7500 a year.
This demonstrates a further smack in the face for the UK’s working poor, in the sense that it will mean an increased weekly shop (or meals cost) in a time of high VAT and a rising cost of living. The coalition talk the talk of rewarding the UK’s working families, but the reality is that this move will actually make it more beneficial to take an hours cut or a pay cut, which is nonsensical. Cameron wants to show millions of working class voters that in spite of his privileged upbringing he understands their needs and wants to give them a society which gives a fair return for their work ethic. But what is he actually doing to prove it? He won’t raise minimum wage to a living level, because it is easier to placate big business and keep people in the position of believing they have to bow to the hand that feeds by putting money in the context of benefits (tax credits etc) rather than actual return for their labour in the form of wages. Osborne may have raised the bottom tax bracket (which did nothing for those already under it, and has to be interpreted in the context of inflation, loss of public services, benefits cuts etc to be assessed fairly), but now it seems they are going to attempt to claw some of the money used to pay for the raising tax threshold designed to publicly show increased fairness for this group.
Whether children come from the families of the working poor, or from the unemployed (and it has to be remembered that in the current economic climate many of these are the result of austerity policy rather than the generational benefits culture the right wing press like to emphasise), they are already being treated as undeserving as a result of their parents economic status and position in society. And whilst right wing psychological analysis likes to dwell on the role of “entitlement culture” to support the idea of taking benefits away, there is no logical evidence to suggest depriving children of what is statistically their most nutritious and sustaining meal of the day will do anything to encourage them into social mobility. Even if you believe that the low paid and unemployed are entirely responsible for their lot, and need to be kicked away from dependency to become “wealth creators”, there is no logic whatsoever in assuming a child should go without a nourishing meal as a result of their parents actions. Yet again, the youngest are being used as pawns in a political strategy to reinforce the narrative of the undeserving poor which keeps the current inequalities in place, and while it happens, our public school elite continue to dine in luxury.
Please sign the Children’s Society petition for free school meals for all children in poverty here: http://action.childrenssociety.org.uk/page/signup/fair-and-square-free-school-meals-campaign