Free School Meals Under Threat!

Image of child carrying school meal tray.A recent vote in Parliament will threaten the availability of free school meals says Barnstaple Lib Dem County Councillor Brian Greenslade. He made this comment after Liberal Democrat’s at County Hall obtained a break down of the eligibility for free school meals across the county. This shows that 9,522 out of 99,389 pupils, 9.6%, are eligible for free school meals.

The threat to free school meals arises from the Government ploughing ahead with changes as part of the Conservatives Universal Credit Welfare policy. As a result of the vote the earnings threshold for free school meals for children, apart from years one and two, will be £7,400.

The number of children living in poverty in Britain is set to soar to 5.2 million in the next five years. By 2021/22 the Institute for Fiscal Studies expects 37% of British Children to be living in relative poverty.

Brian Greenslade said “while the county wide rate is 9.6%, several schools in North Devon and Torridge record eligibility for free school meal rates of over 20% with figures like 23.8%, 38.1%, 46.5%, 34.8%, 32.1%, 34.7% being recorded in North Devon and figures of 34.5%, 20.3%, 21.3%, 45.3% being recorded in Torridge schools.

Hansard records that among the MPs voting for this cap on eligibility for free school meals were Peter Heaton Jones and Geoffery Cox. I really don’t know what they are thinking about. There is plenty of evidence showing a good diet helps children learn and sadly for some children it’s the only good meal they have each day. As the figures for North Devon and Torridge show, the need in our part of the country is large and very real.

While voting for this damaging cut to children’s welfare the Conservative MPs nevertheless made sure their welfare was taken care of by buying more support from the DUP by making the cap that will apply in Ulster for free school meals is nearly double at £14,000!

Such cynical politics is appalling.”

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