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Welsh Government condemned for scrapping free school meals during holidays

01 Mar 2024 4 minute read
Photo Ben Birchall PA Images

Plaid Cymru has criticised the Welsh Government following confirmation that it has has scrapped support for free meals for children during school holidays “indefinitely”

Education Minister and First Minister Candidate, Jeremy Miles, announced that support was being  scrapped in a statement on Thursday (29 February).

The Government had been subject to a judicial review after initially providing free meal support for children throughout Covid, and then cancelling this support on the eve of the summer school holidays last year.

Child poverty

Plaid Cymru has called for the decision to be reversed, citing research by charities aimed at tackling the cost of living and child poverty, which has highlighted the increasing pressures on families and the effect this is having on children.

The Welsh Government’s own data also shows that 28% of children in Wales are living in relative poverty.

The Expert Group on the Cost of Living Crisis, established by the Welsh Government, has also called for schemes that support free meals for children during the holidays to be expanded.

In the statement, Mr Miles MS said:“…given the ongoing financial pressures on the Welsh Government’s budget, the decision was taken not to reintroduce the provision for October 2023 half term and subsequent holidays, and to cease the provision indefinitely.”

Plaid Cymru negotiated universal free school meals for primary school children during term-time as one of its main policies in the party’s Co-operation Agreement with the Welsh Government.

The party’s representatives for both Education and Social Justice have both responded to the new announcement by calling for the government to reconsider the move.

Devastating news

Heledd Fychan MS, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for Education said: “The news that the Labour Government has indefinitely scrapped the scheme to provide food to children in poverty during the school holidays will be devastating news to all those who have previously benefited.

“The Labour First Minister hopeful, Education Minister Jeremy Miles, said that cost is the main reason, which echoes an attitude to poverty that we usually hear from the Conservatives.

“Latest figures show that 28% of children in Wales are living in relative poverty once housing costs have been taken into account, so for many families, the holiday free school meals scheme has been a lifeline. I urge the Welsh Government to reconsider this regressive step.”

Shocking

Sioned Williams MS, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for Social Justice added: “Charities who support children in poverty say that this winter has been even more difficult than last year for families in poverty, because of the cost-of-living crisis and because so many programmes of support have now disappeared.

“Even the Welsh Government’s own expert group on the Cost of Living recommended that support for children’s meals throughout the school holidays was expanded.

“Considering all of this, it is incredibly shocking to see the Government not find a way to prioritise this relatively small budget which has such a huge impact on the lives of the youngest and most vulnerable people in Wales.”

In his statement, the minister said: “Extending free school meals support into the school holidays was introduced during the pandemic and we were clear at the time that it was a time-limited crisis intervention. The support ran from early in the pandemic until May 2023.

“The decision not to extend funding into the 2023 summer holidays was not taken lightly by the Welsh Government.

“However, as the subsequent comprehensive impact assessment demonstrated, and given that our budget is worth £1.2bn less in real terms than when it was set by UK Government in 2021, it would have been unaffordable without having to make significant cuts in other key education budgets.”


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Llyn
Llyn
1 month ago

Any idea from what budget Plaid want to pay for this? What won’t be funded due to their proposed re-prioritisation. Today Heledd Fychan is also calling for citizens of Rhondda Cynon Tag to have free access to the Eisteddfod!

Mark
Mark
1 month ago

It is the responsibility of parents to feed their children, it is not the responsibility of tax-payers. 28% of children may be living in ‘relative poverty’, but this simply means the household income is less than 60% of the median (£35,000). This is a measure of inequality not poverty. Those using this metric to describe poverty are being deliberately misleading. ‘Relative poverty’ means a household income of £21,000. Given the availability of housing benefit to contribute to rent, how is it possible that £21,000 is insufficient to feed the children? What are these parents spending their money on that they… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Tough Love from Smiles…he only wants their brains nourished during term time…

Crowd fund it, Clwb Cinio for the hungry little ones with a few catch-up lessons thrown in…

The Jolly to India for the Baroness and how many others could have funded it…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

@Swansea History…The Welsh and Empire: Early Reflections on India…St David has a long memory of being remembered in India…Right up the Baroness’ Galee, this one…

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