News

Wales has highest percentage of children in poverty missing out on free school meals in UK

31 Aug 2021 3 minutes Read
Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay.

Wales has the highest percentage of children in poverty missing out on free school meals in UK, according to research by two charities.

A new report from Child Poverty Action Group and Covid Realities shows that 44% of all school-aged children in poverty in Wales are not entitled to a free meal at school, compared with 36% across the UK.

The equivalent numbers in England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland are 37%, 22% and 17%.

In Scotland, only 25,000 children in poverty miss out on a free school meal, compared with 55,000 in Wales, despite the larger population.

“Wales has a relatively high number of children in poverty who miss out as they no universal FSMs, restrictive eligibility criteria for means-tested FSMs and a high child poverty rate,” the report says.

The report authors recommend following the Scottish government’s lead by extending universal free school meals to all primary school pupils in the rest of the UK. They estimate this would cost £770 million per year.

Kate Anstey, UK Cost of the School Day lead at Child Poverty Action Group, said it was an “outrage” that so many children in poverty aren’t allowed a free school meal.

“We know what a huge difference these meals can make to struggling families who are at their wits’ end. It’s high time we gave them one less thing to worry about – that’s why we’re calling for urgent changes to the rules so all families on a low income can get this daily support,” she said.

‘Dignified’

The report authors said that free school meals should be expanded to everyone on universal credit or equivalent benefits. They estimate that this would cost £700 million per year. In addition, they said, free school meals should be extended to all families with no recourse to public funds.

As a further step, the authors are also recommending a move towards universal free school meals for all children in the UK, stating the numerous benefits of this approach, including increased take-up and reduced stigma. They estimate that universal free school meals for all children in the UK would cost £1.75 billion.

Dr Maddy Power, Co-Investigator of the Covid Realities project, said that when listening to parents and carers living on a low income it became evident the important difference that free school meals can make to family finances.

“Parents and carers are clear that ultimately the only dignified and fair solution is universal free school meals for all children in the UK,” she said. “In the short-term, however, change is needed urgently to ensure that all families living on a low income are entitled to free school meals.”

The report notes that in Wales, while there is no universal school lunch provision, children in local-authority-maintained primary schools can claim a free breakfast.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
6 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David Russell
David Russell
1 month ago

A truly shameful situation. Child poverty, food banks and homelessness. Britain as a whole is broken. Nothing great about it. yet with so many problems facing our people our masters scour the world for penniless migrants to take what little we have left.
When will all this madness end?

Tim
Tim
1 month ago

Sort it out welsh labour.

Stephen
Stephen
1 month ago

Time for the UK Government to step in and sort this mess out…Welsh Government not fit for purpose.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen

You’re joking right? The neglect of the UK Government is the reason there is child poverty in Wales in the first place ! The Welsh Government has had only a relatively short span of time to sort the problem out and with one hand tied behind its back.

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago

Drop the “free” and call it LUNCH! All school kids to have lunch, and it better be good, with a pan-Cymru set menu, one veggie day and fish on friday.
If Welsh Gov. cry poverty, then they should drop oversees, feel goody, projects to do so.

Last edited 1 month ago by j humphrys
Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago

Yet welsh labour has repeatedly voted against motions and amendments in the Senedd which would have extended free school meals to all children in Wales in families receiving universal credit or who have no recourse to public funds 🤔☹️

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.