Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood AM has repeated calls for a “radical change” to school meals in Wales following the Welsh Government’s decision to reduce eligibility criteria for free school meals in Wales – a decision that Plaid Cymru says will only increase poverty and stigma.
The Welsh Government’s consultation, which ends on September 14, could limit the eligibility for free school meals for families on Universal Credit whose net earned income is less than £7,400.
Leader of Plaid Cymru Leanne Wood AM, said,
“According to the latest statistics, 28% of children in Wales live in poverty – that’s 150,000 children. The Welsh government’s proposal could mean that 40% of children in full time education – 55,000 of children who live in poverty in Wales, will not be eligible for free school meals.
Labour’s decision to reduce the eligibility for free school meals will only increase poverty and with fewer pupils receiving free school meals, there will be even more of a stigma attached to those who remain eligible.
With the Conservative UK government cutting welfare and with living costs on the rise, it is shameful that a government led by Labour has cut support for the poorest and most disadvantaged in our society at a time where support is needed more than ever.
In northern Ireland the cap for earned income is set at £14,000 – twice the level proposed in Wales. Despite caps in England and Scotland being similar to those proposed by the Welsh Government, school children in year two and under are provided free school meals. Yet again, Wales under Labour is being held back.
The Welsh Government has a duty of care to the children of Wales and by reducing eligibility for free school meals they are foregoing that duty.
We must look towards radically changing the way we provide for our children and consider looking towards a more universal model – such as the one in Sweden, where school meals are provided free for all children. Access to adequate food is the most basic of human rights.”
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