Politics

Free School meals plan extended over holidays in Wales

free school meals
Education Minister Kirsty Williams. Source: Liberal Democrats (via. Flickr)
The Welsh Government have recently announced, ahead of the October half-term, an extension of their scheme to provide free school meals for all eligible children across Wales.

By Ryan Bellenie

The plan will give eligible children free school meals during school holidays, up until and including Easter holidays in 2021.

The programme will cost approximately £11 million, and will provide meals to over 75,000 pupils within the age bracket of five to fifteen.

The project was confirmed by Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, who said she aims to provide “some reassurance in these times of uncertainty”.   

The current funding works alongside over £700,000 that has been allocated to support colleges and equivalent eligible learners, as well as the £7 million which was provided at the beginning of the first lockdown in March when schools first closed.

At present, the future for many is unpredictable – and for many that means even more stressful times lie ahead. With unemployment in Wales recently taking a sharp rise to 3.8%, the scheme comes at a convenient time to aid those who with may be uncertain about their jobs and potential incomings over the next few months.

In June, a campaign led by Manchester United star, Marcus Rashford, fought for free school meals to help battle child hunger in the UK. The England international has welcomed the plan from the Welsh Government, highlighting the positive impact that this would have on children across Wales.

During the summer, Rashford pressured the UK Government to make a U-turn, with the decision being made to fund free meal vouchers for those eligible during the recent summer holidays.

Rashford stated that “having this framework in place for the foreseeable future will have a significantly positive impact on children who are struggling to engage due to anxiety and fear, not to mention the noise of their rumbling stomachs”.

Since then, Rashford’s petition to expand the UK Government’s free school meals scheme has had over 250,000 signatures – and received significant backing and support from the Labour party and Kate Green. 

The campaign led by Rashford, alongside the new extension introduced by the Welsh government, is likely to cause pressure on the UK’s Education secretary, Gavin Williamson, and the Westminster Government to expand their scheme in England. However, Westminster announced on October 21 that they will not be implementing this policy.

Now during the second national lockdown, and the economic pressures it will likely cause, the extension may turn out crucial for many families.

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