Plea for Wales to match England's free school lunches

School dinners Children in reception, year one and year two in England will have free lunches

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Plans to give all pupils at infant schools in England free lunches should be matched in Wales, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has said.

The Welsh government is expected to receive extra money as a result of the English scheme, to spend as it wishes.

CPAG said free lunches in Wales would help family budgets, help fight child poverty and boost pupils' health.

Welsh ministers said they would press the Treasury for details on the funding and how much will come to Wales.

Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy PM Nick Clegg announced the English scheme on Tuesday, which is expected to save parents about £400 a year per child.

'Much-needed relief'

Start Quote

With Welsh families being battered by UK government tax and benefit policies, stagnating wages and soaring food prices, free healthy school lunches have never been so important”

End Quote Alison Garnham Child Poverty Action Group

He told told his party's conference in Glasgow that targeting infants would ensure "every child gets the chance in life they deserve", teach healthy eating habits and boost attainment.

Now CPAG chief executive Alison Garnham said it was the "ideal time for the Welsh government to look to build on its excellent free school breakfast initiative by looking to match the free school meal announcement for England."

She added: "With Welsh families being battered by UK government tax and benefit policies, stagnating wages and soaring food prices, free healthy school lunches have never been so important."

"Ensuring all infant school children receive a free healthy school lunch would provide much-needed relief to hard-pressed family budgets, protect against rising levels of child poverty and food poverty and at the same time boost our children's health, education and well-being."

The Welsh Liberal Democrats said about £30m extra would be coming to Wales, under a funding formula for spending announcements on devolved matters, and called on Welsh ministers to follow England's lead.

'Health eating habits'

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It's important to remember that we led the way in the UK by introducing a free school breakfast initiative ”

End Quote Statement Welsh government

Party education spokesman Aled Roberts said: "We want to see the Welsh Labour government do something similar to ease the pressure families in Wales are under."

Following Mr Clegg's announcement, the Welsh government said it believed in providing free school meals to those who need them most and encouraged those eligible to take them up.

In a statement it added: "It's important to remember that we led the way in the UK by introducing a free school breakfast initiative - now, under the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013, local authorities have a duty to ensure that the provision of primary school free breakfasts continues.

"The Free Breakfasts In Primary Schools Scheme is designed to help improve the health and concentration of pupils, and to develop healthy eating habits from a young age.

"We will press the Treasury for further details of the funding package announced today but we expect Wales to get the Barnett (formula) consequential of any additional funding made available in England in the normal way."

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