Equality Impact Assessment Record
Title of policy/ practice/ strategy/ legislation etc:
The Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (Modification) Regulations 2021
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills
Officials involved in the EQIA:
Directorate, Division, Team:
Directorate for Learning: Improvement, Attainment and Wellbeing Division: Support and Wellbeing Unit
Is this new policy or revision to an existing policy?
This is the maintenance of an existing policy. These Regulations amend the current criteria in order to maintain the current policy.
The policy aim is to protect eligibility to Free School Meal provision as a passported benefit for those in receipt of both Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit and Universal Credit.
The current criteria is that those pupils whose parents are in receipt of both Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit can receive free school meals where their annual income is equal to or less than £7,330. The threshold was increased to this level from the previous level of £6,900 in August 2020. The current criteria for those pupils whose parents are in receipt of Universal Credit (or who receive universal credit themselves) is that they can receive free school meals if their monthly earned income is not more than £610 (this is equivalent to £7,320 per year, however Universal Credit awards are calculated on a monthly basis).
Further changes to National Living Wage mean that some families who would currently be entitled to Free School Meals under the current criteria for recipients of both Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit, and Universal Credit, would lose out because the latest increase in the National Living Wage would take them above these thresholds. On 1 April 2021, the National Living Wage increased from £8.72 to £8.91 per hour for people aged 23 and over - equivalent to £7,413 per year. This means that anyone working at least 16 hours a week will earn at least £83 above the current qualifying threshold for free school meals (£7,330). As a result, the policy decision to increase the income threshold to protect those in receipt of both Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit to £7,500 has been taken.
As a result of the latest increase in the National Living Wage, it has also become necessary to review the current qualifying threshold for free school meals for those in receipt of Universal Credit. The current qualifying threshold of an earned income of up to £610 per month has been in place since 2017. We have decided the qualifying threshold for those in receipt of Universal Credit should now be increased from £610 to £625 per month. This is equivalent to £7,500 per year and would therefore level the new threshold we have set for those in receipt of both Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit.
None of the other criteria for Free School Meals eligibility are being amended at this time.
Who will it affect?
This policy will affect families whose eligibility for free school meals is linked to their being in receipt of both Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit or Universal Credit. The provision of free school meals is primarily an education attendance measure, to ensure that children and young people are able to access nutritious, high quality meals whilst they attend school, free of charge. Free school meals are provided universally for some age groups, so the benefit of this policy action will be felt most for families whose children are outwith those age groups for whom universal provision is made.
What might prevent the desired outcomes being achieved?
This regulation will enable both the immediate and unintended consequences of the latest rise in the National Living Wage to be rectified, and to future proof the entitlement to free school meals as a passported benefit for the 2021-22 school year.
The decision to increase the free school meals eligibility threshold in annual increments in line with the National Living Wage, for families in receipt of both Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit, was taken in 2019. These amendments will continue to be made automatically every year by Scottish Government officials for as long as it remains necessary to do so.
There is therefore no risk of the desired outcomes, set by the regulations, not being achieved.
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