Campaigners welcome First Minister’s universal free school meals announcement

7 January 2014

“Huge boost for children and families” says CPAG in Scotland.

Child poverty campaigners have today welcomed an announcement by the First Minister that all children in P1 to P3 will receive a free healthy school lunch. Reacting to the announcement John Dickie, Head of CPAG in Scotland, said:

“A universal approach to healthy free school lunches provides a huge boost to children and parents at a time when they are under increasing pressure from tax credit and benefit cuts, soaring food and energy prices and stagnating wages. Current means-testing means too many of our worst off children are not receiving a free school meal and parents too often struggle to meet the extra costs of lunches as they move back into work or increase their hours when their children start school. What’s more a universal approach ensures that all our children, whatever their home circumstances, gain the health and education benefits of a healthy lunch in the middle of the school day.”

The announcement follows calls from children’s charities, anti-poverty campaigners, the Church of Scotland and unions representing teachers, caterers and working parents for the First Minister to confirm that all children in primary 1 to 3 will be entitled to a healthy free school lunch from next year.

In a letter to Alex Salmond last month CPAG in Scotland, Children in Scotland, Children 1st, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), STUC and UNISON told the First Minister that there was growing expectation that the Scottish Government “must now grasp the current opportunity to deliver on its long standing free school lunch ambitions and commitments”. They said prioritising investment in a free healthy school lunch for pupils in P1 to P3 would provide a “well evidenced, direct and immediate boost to the wellbeing of children and families across Scotland.”

The signatories, who also included Shelter Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland and the Poverty Alliance, say that “a universal approach in the early years has been demonstrated to have a positive impact on the take up of healthy school lunches, on children’s readiness to learn and attainment, and on supporting family budgets and home life”.