- Posted by: Mike Hedges MS
- Categories: Assembly Speeches, Latest News
Free school meals
Thank you, Presiding Officer,
I am pleased that this issue is being debated today.
I have previously asked for a Welsh Government statement or debate on this issue as children going hungry or relying on foodbanks is not what I and I believe most members want to see
I have also submitted many written questions on free school meals
For many children, the free school meal is their major meal of the day
To repeat something, I have said many times in the chamber
During school holidays
Parents must provide an additional 10 meals per child a week during school holidays
That is why I have continually asked for and now welcome the continued provision of free school meals during the school holidays at Christmas and Easter
Will the Government confirm that it will be provided at half term as well?
I am calling on the Government to budget for in 2021/22 free school meals across all the school holidays including half term holidays.
I am not sure all members understand poverty, some of us understand it from personal experience.
To us it is a lived experience not an abstract debating point
It is real
It affected us and people we grew up with and went to school with
To those of us who come from a certain background know it as school dinners.
The reason we know it as school dinners is because it is the main meal of the day, it is followed by tea.
It keeps many children adequately fed.
That is why I am so pleased it will be provided across the next holidays.
When I was in school pupils would not attend lessons but come into school to be fed.
If you want to know someone’s background, ask them when dinner is midday or evening.
I support the first part of the motion Calls on the Welsh Government to immediately amend the eligibility criteria for free school meals so that any child in any family receiving universal credit or equivalent benefit and any child in a family with no recourse to public funds is eligible
Expanding eligibility would help struggling families to cope, improve educational outcomes and help tackle in-work poverty.
Over half of children in Wales who live below the UK poverty line are not entitled to free school meals. Of the 129,000 school-age children living below the poverty line in Wales, over 70,000 are not eligible for free school meals, mainly because their parents are in low-paid jobs which take them over the eligibility threshold.
In addition, nearly 6,000 children in Wales are not normally eligible for free school meals because their families have no recourse to public funds; many of these children live in deep, long-term poverty and are in urgent need of support.
The Welsh Government need to urgently address this for next year’s budget.
Do Plaid Cymru really believe that the provision of free school meals to every child is a good use of limited resources
Is it costed?
Will it appear in Plaid Cymru’s proposed budget for April 2021?
What is the estimated cost?
Capacity is a big issue
If the school hall is used for meals and teaching such as PE in primary schools
Organising several sittings based upon the capacity of the hall
Timings of the sittings
There are schools that now have two sittings
How would three or four be organised
On universal provision
Ill thought out
We need to expand the provision of free school meals to all children in need
We need to commit to expanding the provision
We need to commit to continuing it through the holidays
This will improve education attainment
How is it to be funded
Out of the economy and transport portfolio
As I keep on saying higher educational attainment is the best economic development tool
Far better than bribing companies to bring branch factories to Wales which then leave
Ensuring children are well fed must be a government priority