There is speculation that the government may be considering cutting the Universal Infant Free School Meals Scheme (UIFSM), which provides free school meals for all four to seven year olds.
Cutting this scheme would have a very serious impact on the many families and children that benefit from it. Free school lunches save families around £400 per child per year and I fear that, at a time when the government are also making deeply regressive cuts to tax credits, ending this scheme could lead to millions of children going hungry.
I know that a number of charities and healthy eating campaigners have also raised concern about this issue. Indeed, the Children’s Society have emphasised that free school meals are vital to helping many families and that this would particularly hit children living in poverty.
At the last General Election, Labour was committed to protect the entire education budget including early year’s education and to continue to support free school meals for infants in primary schools.
The government has not protected early years spending and have stated that other government departments are likely to face 25 per cent-40 per cent cuts over the next five years. I am very concerned about the impact this could have on our public services and the future of schemes such as UIFSM.
I hope that the government listens to the strong support there is for maintaining free school meals for infants and drop any proposals that may be considered in this area. You can read my recent web posts on this issue by clicking here. I also hope that the government will step back from the potential 40 per cent cuts it is planning across the public sector.