Expanding the provision of Free School Meals in Wales: Practical considerations

ReportsResourcesMay 11th, 2021

New report considers the practical challenges to expanding eligibility to Free School Meals

The pandemic has raised the profile of Free School Meals (FSM) as a political issue as never before. 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.

Whilst there is broad political consensus that the FSM system is in need of reform, there have been concerns about some of the practical barriers to expanding provision. This briefing explores those barriers and considers some possible solutions.

The briefing reveals that:

  • There are barriers to expanding eligibility to FSM so that all children in Wales are eligible on a universal basis in the immediate future. The possible need to enact primary legislation and the need for greater investment in school catering facilities mean that any such expansion is likely to need to be rolled out over time. The ongoing revenue costs associated with such a change, however, are manageable and the potential benefits significant.
  • There are no major barriers to expanding the eligibility criteria for FSM to all children whose families receive Universal Credit. The cost of expanded provision is small in the context of the Welsh Government’s budget whilst many of the practical barriers are easily surmountable. Such a change could therefore be introduced reasonably swiftly, in time for the start of the school year in September 2022 at the very latest. Given the enormous benefits that such a change would provide families across Wales, we believe this should be a priority for the next Welsh Government.

Format: PDF

Language: English

Pages: 21

Cost: Free



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