22 Sep, 2015

Labour warns children would go hungry if universal free meals scrapped

The Guardian | Rowena Mason Political correspondent | 20 September 2015

Flagship policy of Nick Clegg to give free meals to all school children should not be cancelled, says new shadow education secretary Lucy Powell

Millions of children will go hungry if George Osborne scraps universal free school meals for infants at the spending review, Lucy Powell, the new shadow education secretary, has said.

Powell, who is in her first week in the job under Jeremy Corbyn, said Labour was opposed to scrapping free school meals for all five to seven year olds because it could be damaging for children at the same time as the government slashes tax credits.

The Department for Education will not comment on reports that axing universal free school meals is under consideration, just a year after the policy was implemented by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition government.

But there is speculation that the policy could be abandoned, given that it is a large chunk of the unprotected element of the education budget and the Conservatives were never particularly enthusiastic about the idea. Free school meals for disadvantaged pupils are not at risk of being cut.