Outside portraitAs part of their campaign, the Welsh Liberal Democrats are holding a debate in the National Assembly today calling for the introduction of free school meals for all children of infant school age in Wales.
In last year's Autumn Statement, the Coalition government announced that school children aged between 5 and 7 in England were to receive free school meals from September 2014. The Scottish government has decided that the money it received, as a result of this announcement, would be used to introduce free school meals for Scottish pupils. However, the Welsh Labour Government has refused to do likewise.
In total, Wales will receive over £62m of Barnett consequential revenue funding for 2014-16 and over £4m of capital funding in 2014-15 because of the Coalition government's decision to introduce free school meals in England.
Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said:
"While the Scottish government has acknowledged the merit in introducing free school meals for all infants, the Welsh Labour government is stubbornly refusing to budge.
"The Welsh Labour government continues to use free school breakfasts as an excuse not to implement universal lunches. Yet only around 24% of primary age pupils in 2012-13 took a free school breakfast. That takeup is very low; our policy would be far more wide reaching.
"There are a number of positives which come from universal free school meals. Not only will it ensure that all pupils are enjoying a healthy lunch, which helps them concentrate better, but it is also a huge help to the family budget. The average family currently spends around £437 on school meals per year. The Welsh Liberal Democrats understand the financial strain families are under and we are doing all we can to help people in difficult times."
The petition can be found here: www.welshlibdems.org.uk/meals