Welsh Labour vote against extending free school meals

10 February 2021
Welsh Labour vote against a proposal to extend free school meals (FSM) to all children in families receiving universal credit or with no recourse to public funds (NRPF).

The Welsh Government has come under increasing pressure to extend the eligibility criteria for FSM. In December, the Senedd – including Welsh Labour and Welsh Conservatives – voted down a Plaid Cymru amendment to see the criteria extended to include all children from families receiving universal credit or with NRPF.

report by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) found that of 129,000 children in Wales living below the poverty line, over 70,000 do not qualify for FSM. In January, Plaid Cymru again challenged the Labour-led Welsh Government over their FSM provision.

This week in the Senedd, Welsh Labour rejected another amendment proposed by Plaid Cymru’s Sian Gwenllian to extend FSM eligibility. This time the amendment was to the Welsh Draft Budget and received backing from the Welsh Conservatives. According to the BBC, Labour Member of the Senedd (MS) Alun Davies said his party was on the ‘wrong side’, although he too voted against the motion.

Gwenllian’s amendment suggested the cost of additional FSM could be covered by funds set aside to deal with the pandemic. However, Finance Minister Rebecca Evans asked that decisions were understood in the context of budgetary constraints. The Welsh Government has also committed to review the FSM income threshold in April 2021. 

School Food Matters was pleased to see the amendment – which is in line with the National Food Strategy – garner cross-party backing from Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservative Party. It is disappointing to see that Welsh Labour felt unable to enact the motion. Yet another reason why the Prime Minister must consider a UK-wide review of school food provision!