Failure to extend free school meals will cost poorest families £600 a year

The Tories and Lib Dems have just condemned 50,000 children to continue a life in poverty with their decision not to extend free school meals to 500,000 of the poorest families.

Our guest writer is Cllr Richard Watts, executive councillor for children and young people in Islington, where Labour introduced free school meals for all primary school children; he used to run the Children’s Food Campaign

Just before the election, George Osborne said this about the cuts he was planning to public services:

The promise is absolutely explicit. We will protect the frontline, we are looking at waste, inefficiency and that is what is has to go in the coming year. I will not accept frontline cuts.”

Yesterday the Tories and Lib Dems announced that they were scrapping Labour’s plans to give 500,000 children from the lowest paid families free school meals.

This scheme, by itself, would have lifted 50,000 children out of poverty. Some of the poorest families – many under the official poverty line – will now have to pay up to £600 more to give their children a decent lunch. This is the equivalent of an extra penny in income tax per child for them.

The Child Poverty Action Group described itself as “stunned” by the move; it will be interesting to see Michael Gove and former Islington Lib Dem councillor Sarah Tether explaining how this isn’t a savage cut to front line services.

At the same time, they have abandoned seven trials of universal free schools in places like Islington – where the local Labour Party won the battle to introduce universal free school meals before taking over control of the council – as well places like Nottingham, Bradford and Medway.

Islington Labour’s campaign to introduce free school meals was a key part of our winning local election campaign and we will stick to our promise to introduce them, despite the Government taking away £1.6 million that the Labour Government had allocated to the borough to help with the costs.

Good quality school meals help improve children’s health, behaviour and learning. The difference in the quality of lunch that affluent children eat, compared to their less well off peers is, in my view, one of the main explanations for why school results are so predictably, and depressingly, correlated with income.

When children do not eat a school lunch, the lucky ones get a packed lunch (a study by the School Food Trust found only 1 in 100 met the basic nutritional criteria that all school meals must meet) while the unlucky children get a small amount of money to spend in a local shop.

The Tories and Lib Dems profess that they want to make work pay, but have just imposed another financial burden on parents wanting to get back into the labour market. Having to pay for school meals as soon as they get a job means the poverty trap has been made that bit deeper for many parents.

It took Labour too long to recognise the importance of school food. But in the end the previous government had enormously increased the quality of school food, trailed free school meals for all and extended the number of people eligible for free school meals everywhere else. If they had been allowed to continue, these changes would most have really helped our least well off children to do better at school.

In contrast the Tories and Lib Dems have just condemned 50,000 children to continue a life in poverty, made it more difficult for struggling parents to keep their children healthy and exacerbated the poverty trap into the bargain.

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26 Responses to “Failure to extend free school meals will cost poorest families £600 a year”

  1. Jackie Schneider

    RT @leftfootfwd: Failure to extend free school meals will cost poorest families £600 a year: http://bit.ly/awumvc reports @Richardwatts01

  2. Rosanna

    RT @leftfootfwd: Failure to extend free school meals will cost poorest families £600 a year: http://bit.ly/awumvc reports @Richardwatts01

  3. Andy Sutherland

    RT @leftfootfwd: Failure to extend free school meals will cost poorest families £600 a year: http://bit.ly/awumvc reports @Richardwatts01

  4. Political Animal

    RT @leftfootfwd: Failure to extend free school meals will cost poorest families £600 a year: http://bit.ly/awumvc reports @Richardwatts01

  5. Jenni Jackson

    RT @leftfootfwd: Failure to extend free school meals will cost poorest families £600 a year: http://bit.ly/awumvc reports @Richardwatts01

  6. Paula Sutcliff

    RT @leftfootfwd: Failure to extend free school meals will cost poorest families £600 a year: http://bit.ly/awumvc reports @Richardwatts01

  7. Billy Blofeld

    £600 per year – shock, horror……….!!!

    Well that is the cost of having kids isn’t it? Education is a frontline service, feeding them isnt. It is time for people in this country to take responsibility for themselves again. Get over it.

  8. Economic growth & fall in unemployment key to tacking child poverty | Left Foot Forward

    […] criticised the Coalition Government’s decision to deny 500,000 of the poorest working families free school meals (costing them £600 each and condemning 50,000 youngsters to continue a life in poverty), reduce […]

  9. Mary Roberts

    RT @leftfootfwd: Failure to extend free school meals will cost poorest families £600 a year: http://bit.ly/awumvc reports @Richardwatts01

  10. Richard Watts

    RT @leftfootfwd: Failure to extend free school meals will cost poorest families £600 a year: http://bit.ly/awumvc reports @Richardwatts01

  11. BenC

    Great blog @Richardwatts01 on Lib-Cons plans for free school meals, cost poorest families £600a year http://bit.ly/awumvc (via @leftfootfwd)

  12. Jackie Schneider

    Can I urge everyone who agrees with the sentiments of this blog to email Michael Gove now. There is a link on the Children’s Food Campaign website with a suggested letter you can adapt. Please sign up to get regular email updates from Children’s Food Campaign so we can work togeher to protect school meals.

  13. Matt Nicholas

    @Childrensfood Aye, read Left Foot Forward blog providing detail http://bit.ly/aXwWk7 still absolutely horrific that this cut is being made

  14. Islington Labour

    @Richardwatts01 -Lib-Cons scrapping free school meals initiative, costs poor families £600a year http://bit.ly/awumvc

  15. F Hebb

    RT @Islingtonlabour: @Richardwatts01 -Lib-Cons scrapping free school meals initiative, costs poor families £600a year http://bit.ly/awumvc

  16. Mr. Sensible

    This is yet more evidence that all the Coalition’s pledges are not worth the paper they’re written on.

    They talk about protecting Frontline Services, but whatever Billy may say feeding children is a Frontline Service being cut along with others.

    They say ‘We’re All In This Together’, but their own Local Government Minister admitted in the Commons that poorer areas would bear the brunt of cuts.

    They talk tough on getting people back in to work, but as this article highlights they are cutting support for those who need it, and what’s more they’re cutting the jobs and the education that our young need.

    Cameron pledged before the election that any minister who came to him proposing to cut a frontline service would be shown the door, in which case, if the government is going to keep its word it should resign and let the people decide.

  17. Look Left – The Week in Fast Forward | Left Foot Forward

    […] Coalition’s decision to scrap plans to give 500,000 children from the lowest paid families free school meals. The scheme would have lifted 50,000 children out of poverty; the Coalition decision will cost the […]

  18. PartyCash4Gold

    PartyCash4Gold strongly support the allocation of free school lunches and are the leading organiser of fundraising for schools throughout the UK.

    PartyCash4Gold’s commitment extends to increasing its percentage it offers to school fundraisers by offering 50% higher than any other gold party fundraisers.

    Stephen Pearson, CEO comments “with children of my own i know how important the school lunch is to the daily diet of millions of school children around the UK. We will not stand by and see children of poorer families deprived of this essential service and nutrition”

    Schools can organiser fundraising events with Partycash4gold – parents simply need to bring their unwanted gold and other jewellery and Partycash4gold will pay not only top prices but offer 15% of everything that is purchased to go to the school to use for school free lunches.

  19. A new hope v the old attitudes | Left Foot Forward

    […] seen it this week with the decision on free school meals, scrapping Labour’s extension of the scheme to 500,000 of the poorest working families. […]

  20. Christopher Williams

    RT @leftfootfwd: Failure to extend free school meals will cost poorest families £600 a year http://bit.ly/awumvc

  21. Fees, cuts... Is this what Cameron means by "giving young people back their future"? | Left Foot Forward

    […] Tory councils charging for poor kids to access playgrounds, cuts to Sure Start, cuts to free school meals… None of these will have made any difference to a young David Cameron, but make the world of […]

  22. This is a watershed moment for the future of free school meals | Left Foot Forward

    […] See also: • Failure to extend free school meals will cost poorest families £600 a year 10 Jun […]

  23. Hungry pupils? Well, the government did scrap plans for 500,000 free school meals | Left Foot Forward

    […] Cllr Richard Watts, cabinet member for children and young people in Islington, explained on these pages two years ago: This scheme, by itself, would have lifted 50,000 children out of […]

  24. Two children in every classroom go hungry | Left Foot Forward

    […] Cllr Richard Watts, cabinet member for children and young people in Islington, explained on these pages two years ago: This scheme, by itself, would have lifted 50,000 children out of […]

  25. IFS: Free school meals for all increased attainment in disadvantaged areas | Left Foot Forward

    […] Failure to extend free school meals will cost poorest families £600 a year 10 Jun […]

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