Carmarthenshire County Council has called on Welsh Government to ensure that all children from low-income families and all pupils in the first three years in primary school should be eligible for free school meals, as the first steps towards free meals for all pupils in Wales.
The Plaid Cymru led council unanimously agreed this morning to press for the extension of FSMs for any child in any family receiving universal credit or equivalent benefit, and any child in a family with no recourse to public funds, was passed by a Full Council meeting this morning.
Cllr Darren Price, Chair of the council’s Education Scrutiny Committee, said:“It’s a distressing fact that 30% of children in Wales live in poverty, while only 17% have free school meals. Child Poverty Action Group data shows that 70,000 children living below the UK poverty line in Wales are not currently eligible for FSMs, mainly because their parents are in low-paid jobs which take them over the eligibility threshold.
“International evidence from countries such as Finland, Sweden and Estonia, shows us that this anti-poverty and pro-dietary health measure works. The Welsh Government should take steps to ensure that it can benefit families in Wales also. It must be a government priority and the subject of cross-party discussion across Wales.”
Plaid Cymru believes that contracts for FSMs should be procured in Carmarthenshire where possible, to enable better health outcomes for both children and local businesses.
In seconding the Notice of Motion Cllr Gwyneth Thomas pointed out that in England and Scotland, there’s already universal FSMs for children in reception class and years one and two. That should apply in Wales also, she said.