Overwhelming case for expanding Free School Meals argues Wales Anti-Poverty Coalition

Poverty Photo of a school setting
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash
NewsMay 11th, 2021

New evidence demonstrates that expanding Free School Meals is achievable and would improve children’s lives

The pandemic has raised the profile of Free School Meals (FSM) as a political issue as never before. Members of the Wales Anti-Poverty Coalition have been working on the issue for a number of years. Today the Coalition has published an open letter, calling on the new Welsh Government to make expanding eligibility for FSM a priority.

The arguments in favour of reform are long established. Too many children who are trapped in poverty are denied access to FSM due to arbitrary eligibility criteria. This means that children miss out on the health and educational benefits of a healthy meal, whilst already struggling families are placed under significant financial pressure.

There is a broad cross party consensus that the current FSM system needs reform. Welsh Labour’s manifesto contained a pledge to review the current FSM system. There have been some concerns, however, about some of the practical barriers to implementation in recent months. To coincide with today’s letter, the Wales Anti-Poverty Coalition and the Bevan Foundation are publishing two reports that have explored these barriers in greater detail.

  1. An independent report undertaken by Policy in Practice on behalf of the coalition. The report assesses the financial cost to the Welsh Government of extending access to FSM and the savings for eligible households.
  2. A briefing paper developed by the Bevan Foundation exploring the practical barriers to implementation and some possible solutions.

Taken together these two reports make a compelling case for reforming eligibility. We believe that the evidence for taking action is now overwhelming and therefore call on the next Welsh Government to make expanding Free School Meals a priority.


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