Leading charity urges Welsh Government to review decision to axe free school meals during summer holiday
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.
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.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.