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Leading charity urges Welsh Government to review decision to axe free school meals during summer holiday

08 Jul 2023 3 minute read
Free school meals

A leading children’s charity has urged the Welsh Government to urgently review its decision to halt free school meal support over the summer school holidays.

The government confirmed last week that it was ending holiday support for free school meals, which was originally introduced during the Covid pandemic in 2020.

Under the scheme parents and carers whose children were eligible for free school meals were offered options including vouchers, food deliveries and money paid directly to them.

Breaking point

Melanie Simmonds, head of Save the Children Cymru said: “Families are already at breaking point due to spiralling costs and we are very concerned to learn that, at such short notice, Welsh Government will not be providing free school meals to those eligible over the summer.

“Although some alternatives are available, we are worried that this provision will not reach or be accessible to all those that need it the most and as a result many children and families face a summer of stress and misery.

“Our recent research shows that low-income families in Wales are struggling to give their children the summer they would like, with the costs of food, energy bills, days out and transport all huge barriers to creating important childhood moments.

“As food prices continue to spiral, over a third of the parents we surveyed told us they are having to choose between feeding themselves or providing for their children. Nearly half of parents are worried their children won’t be eating enough nutritious meals this summer.

“Added to this we are also concerned that the money available to support families with the purchase of school uniforms has been reduced from what was offered last year, especially when we are already hearing from parents stressing about September and ‘dreading’ how they are going to afford the cost of school clothes and shoes.

“At a time when the Welsh Government are looking for response to their draft Child Poverty Strategy surely all this is a huge step back.”

‘Talk the talk’

Following the announcement, Laura Anne Jones MS, the Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Minister said: “This news is indicative of Welsh Labour.”

“Once again they talk the talk but fail to walk the walk when it comes to free school meals in Wales.

“This comes as no surprise from Labour Ministers in the Senedd who have still failed to properly fund schools to expand their kitchens to be able to roll out their flagship free school meals scheme.”

The leader of Plaid Cymru’s Senedd group Delyth Jewell joined the criticism urging the Welsh Government to make sure “the money is found”.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Extending free school meals into the holidays was a time-limited crisis intervention in response to the pandemic.”

“We continue to support families through the cost-of-living crisis and have invested more than £3.3bn in programmes and schemes which put money back into people’s pockets.”

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George Thomas
George Thomas
11 months ago

“The government confirmed last week that it was ending holiday support for free school meals, which was originally introduced during the Covid pandemic in 2020.” Surely enough time to measure the impact of the policy? If children are coming back healthier, happier and more ready to learn then it would be very difficult to support stopping the policy. They cycle of poverty ends when kids fall in love with learning, setting themselves targets and achieving those goals. But if there’s been no change other than Welsh Government funds are more stretched then is this the best policy to continue? 1/3… Read more »

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
11 months ago
Reply to  George Thomas

The justification for free school meals for all school age children couldn’t have been better made than looking at the situation in Finland where this has been policy since 1947. Children who are malnourished or hungry aren’t in a fit state to learn. Given the known level of poverty in Wales and the numbers of children growing up in poverty, the Welsh government is shaming itself through ending this vital scheme. Labour say they are opposed to Tory austerity, it sure looks like it. We can safely (and should) ignore Welsh Tory mock outrage – it’s their party at Westminster… Read more »

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
11 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Well said Padi! In both Finland and Sweden free schools meals apply to all schools and age levels. No messing about with “proving” your poor.
This also applies to universities and colleges in Finland, whilst not free are heavily subsidised.
Your comment on Plaid Cymru is right on. The group should be screaming with rage but that wouldn’t please their friends in government.
What a gutless “national” party!

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