Move could undermine key Tory target of helping families that are ‘just about managing’, as concerns grow over social care pledge.
About 900,000 children from struggling families will lose their right to free school lunches under a cut unveiled in the Conservative manifesto.
The total includes more than 600,000 young children recently defined as coming from “ordinary working families”, according to analysis for the Observer by the Education Policy Institute.
It means that the surprise measure risks undermining Theresa May’s pledge to prioritise families that are “just about managing” – those who are in work, but struggling to make ends meet.
May opted to end universal free school lunches for infants, introduced under the coalition government, and replace them with free breakfasts. The money saved will be used to see off a looming Tory rebellion over school funding.
The move risks punishing exactly the kind of families the prime minister has promised to help and will cost families about £440 for every child hit by the cut. It is likely to save about £650m a year. However, the Conservatives pointed to recent evidence that free breakfasts were more cost-effective, adding that the poorest children would still receive a free lunch.
After a week in which the parties released their election manifestos, more Tory candidates expressed private reservations about their party’s plan to make people pay for their old-age home care through their estates.