Free school meals face cuts

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Free meals for infant school pupils are likely to be scrapped in George Osborne’s November spending review, according to reports by Sky News.

It said the government is considering the cut despite pledging to continue the policy in the 2015 Conservative manifesto.

Free hot school meals for all schoolchildren between four and seven, regardless of their parent’s income, were introduced by former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in 2014. It was estimated that it would cut costs to parents by £400 per year, per child.

Government departments were ordered by the Chancellor to cut their budgets by up to 40 per cent in July, under his spending review due in November.

The Department for Education has the majority of its spending budget protected.

However, £14 billion of spending within early years education is subject to cuts and the Universal Infant Free School Meals programme (UIFSM), which is estimated to cost between £600m and £800m per year, falls under this category.

According to Sky News, the government refused to rule out cutting the scheme.

Avril Chambers, GMB National Officer for school support staff, said: "Even for families that can afford to do better, the quality and nutritional value of packed lunches are atrocious with many children having only chocolate and crisps in their lunch box if they're lucky. Universal free school meals is designed to put an end to this.

"You can't put a value on children's health and educational well- being. Furthermore, as this was a flagship policy of the last government schools have spent millions upgrading their kitchens to cope - what a waste of public money.

"MPs must put pressure on Osborne to maintain universal free school meals for pupils aged four to seven."

Every Child Journal
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