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Bevan Foundation hosts roundtable discussions on Free School Meals

March 24th 2021

The Bevan Foundation hosts roundtables with local authorities to discuss the challenges and opportunities in expanding eligibility for Free School Meals.

Two children eating school lunch

Children who receive Free School Meals are guaranteed one healthy, nutritious meal a day during term time benefitting both their health and their education. Action taken by the Welsh Government in response to the Covid 19 pandemic has seen these benefits expanded into the holiday period, providing vital extra support to thousands of children and their families across Wales.

Whilst undertaking research on the role of the Welsh Benefits System in lifting children out poverty the Bevan Foundation uncovered that thousands of families miss out on Free School Meals despite living in poverty. Recent research by the Child Poverty Action Group suggests that as many as 70,000 children in Wales who are living in poverty may be missing out of Free School Meals as a result of this.

As a result of this research the Bevan Foundation has called on the Welsh Government to expand the eligibility criteria for Free School Meals so that all children who live in households that receive Universal Credit are eligible. Whilst we are clear that expanding eligibility would offer significant benefits to families in Wales there is still some uncertainty as to what would be the cost of expanding eligibility and what will be the impact on families. The Bevan Foundation has therefore recently commissioned Policy in Practice to undertake research to address some of this uncertainty.

To complement the work undertaken by Policy in Practice the Bevan Foundation has, this week, held two roundtables with staff from local authorities to better understand some of the challenges and opportunities expanding eligibility criteria may present them. The first roundtable was focused on what expanding eligibility may mean for staff working in revenue and benefits roles within local authorities. The second, looked at what any change might mean for staff working in catering teams at local authorities.

A number of interesting proposals were made by local authority staff as to how some barriers to expanding eligibility criteria could be overcome.  The Bevan Foundation will seek to explore these further and aims to publish a report summarising its findings by early summer.

The Bevan Foundation would like to put on record its thanks to the Welsh Local Government Association for its support in arranging the roundtables.

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