THE Labour Government’s refusal to back extending Free School Meals to children in families on universal credit is a “bitter blow” to children in poverty, Plaid Cymru has said.
This afternoon, Plaid Cymru led a debate in the Senedd calling for unallocated cash from the draft budget to be used to fund the extension of Free School Meal to children in families who receive Universal Credit.
The Child Poverty Action Group estimates this includes over 70,000 children in Wales, meaning half of all children in Wales under the poverty line are not eligible for Free School Meals under the current scheme.
The charity also concluded that the Free School Meal scheme in Wales offers the lowest provision across the whole of the UK.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for the Economy, Helen Mary Jones MS said that the Labour Welsh Government doesn’t see the 70,000 in need of Free School meals as a priority.
Ms Jones also noted that a Plaid Cymru Government will display compassion in ensuring “that none of these children go hungry in school”, with the ultimate goal of providing Free School Meals to all children in Wales.
The motion as tabled by Plaid Cymru fell, with thirty-one votes against, two abstaining, and twenty votes in favour.
Some protesting against the Labour Welsh Government’s stance on Free School Meal provision has come from within the Labour Party, with Cynon Valley MP Beth Winter calling on the Welsh Government ahead of the debate to extend the eligibility criteria.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for the Economy, Helen Mary Jones MS said,
“Ending child hunger in Wales is possible with the right political will, but that will seems to be missing within the Labour Welsh Government.
“Cash is available in the draft budget to include the 70,000 children in Wales who are living under the poverty line and are currently not eligible. It is a bitter blow to these children and their families that the Labour Government doesn’t see this as a priority and voted against our motion to extend the eligibility criteria of Free School Meals to include children most in need.
“They have, under pressure from Plaid Cymru and anti-poverty organisations, agreed to review eligibility criteria, but no date for the end of that review is given. And in the meantime these children are still going hungry.
“A compassionate government would ensure that children’s basic needs are met, and to that end, a Plaid Cymru Government will make sure that none of these children go hungry in school by implementing free school meals for every school pupil, first by extending eligibility for all children whose families receive Universal Credit.”