Posted: 16 October 2018

Free school meals in Wales

Before summer, the Welsh Government published a consultation in which it proposed changing its current policy on access to free school meals in Wales. Currently, all children in Wales from families in receipt of Universal Credit are eligible for free school meals. 

However, Welsh Government are proposing to put in place an earnings limit of £7,400, meaning that children from families who earn over this figure will no longer be eligible for free school meals. This would imitate the earnings limit put in place on children in England, a policy which we campaigned against.

How would the changes affect children in poverty?

Changing its current policy would be a huge step backwards for Welsh Government. We believe that around 55,000 children who are already not eligible for free school meals will continue to miss out. This means that tens of thousands of children are missing out on proven health and educational benefits to be had from access to free school meals. Find out how many children in your area would miss out on free school meals.

Not only that, but lack of access to free school meals also prevents these children from accessing other benefits such as support with school clothing, school trips or music lessons, or discounted access to leisure facilities. This can lead to lots of issues for children at school as they're seen to be different or to be missing out on activities or items of clothing their peers receive.

How can we stop the changes from happening?

In response to its proposal, we are calling for Welsh Government to not introduce its proposed earnings limit, and instead continue with its current policy of allowing all children from families in receipt of Universal Credit access to free school meals.

Continuing with the current policy would cost just £35 million more than the estimated cost of the proposed £7,400 earnings limit, but is a price worth paying to prioritise meeting UNCRC obligations and ensuring that all children in poverty can access at least one nutritional meal each day.

Failing that, Welsh Government should introduce a more generous earnings limit, such as the £14,000 earnings limit which is in place in Northern Ireland. If a similar threshold were introduced in Wales, this would go much of the way towards helping ensure that most children in poverty in Wales could access a free school meal, but would only cost around £20 million.

We are now speaking with all parties in the Welsh Assembly to try and secure a debate to highlight the negative impact a £7,400 earnings limit would have on children and why it is important that the current policy remains, or a far more generous limit is introduced.

read more about free school meals