Clegg: “Every primary school pupil should be able to sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their classmates every day”

school childrenNick Clegg’s speech to the Lib Dem conference on Wednesday will contain one new, significant policy announcement: all pupils at infant schools in England are to get free school lunches from next September.

In addition, disadvantaged students at sixth form colleges and further education colleges in England will also be eligible for free school meals also from next September. Money is also being provided for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but as education is a devolved issue, it will be up to those running schools there to decide whether to spend the money on free lunches.

The policy will cost an estimated £600m per year, and save parents about £400 a year per child.

Here’s what Nick had to say:

“My ambition is that every primary school pupil should be able to sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their classmates every day. Millions of parents across the country are feeling the squeeze… I am determined to do all we can to help put money back in the pockets of these families.

“We will start with infant school pupils because teaching healthy habits young, and boosting attainment early, will bring the biggest benefits. Universal free school meals will help give every child the chance in life that they deserve, building a stronger economy and fairer society.”

Free school meals was one of the ideas put forward in The School Food Plan, undertaken by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent. They found that in pilots where all children had been given a free school dinner, students were academically months ahead of their peers elsewhere. They tweeted their delight at the news:

There is a sting in the tail, though. The money for the new scheme is a quid pro quo with the Tories over the marriage tax allowance, expected to cost £550m and benefit a third of married couples by £150 a year. The Lib Dems agreed to abstain on the proposal within the Coalition Agreement, but the announcement today will sweeten that pill for Nick Clegg and the party.

It’s a headline-grabbing announcement that’s likely to be popular, one which directly helps families with young children with the cost of living. It is, of course, a universal benefit, something which generally the Coalition has been moving away from, by means-testing child benefit and with Nick Clegg’s call to end universal pensioner benefits such as the winter fuel allowance. It is also an expensive, ongoing commitment at a time when we’re constantly being told money is tight, with the UK’s mountain of debt continuing to build. It’s almost like an election’s coming…

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • I am going to be deeply unpopular for saying this.

    I do not believe this is a good way to spend half a billion pounds targeted at children, especially children from poor backgrounds.
    Children from low income families are already able to claim free school meals, so this policy does not really effect them.
    This policy will again be of more benefit to higher income earners.

    I think this money could have been directed much more effectively elsewhere within the education system.

  • “I am going to be deeply unpopular for saying this.”

    Probably. Rational discussion seems to have become almost impossible around here.

  • Peter Watson 17th Sep '13 - 9:07pm

    So Lib Dems accept a measure which allows the children of middle class parents get free school meals, but the quid pro quo is allowing those same middle-class parents to benefit from a tax allowance. Anybody would think there was an election to buy.

  • From the press so far, this does look like a clear LibDem policy win, although slightly diluted by letting schools decide where the money actually gets spent.

    In response to Matt’s comment, if this money does get used for free school meals (and I hope parents will put pressure on to schools to help make this happen), then it’s impact will be significant.

    Looking at the figures for my local primary school this effectively means that the numbers receiving free school meals jumps from 20 (in the entire school) to 169+, which I suggest will significantly change the way schools provide meals and to the kitchens producing the meals.

    Whilst some may bridle at the money being targeted at all children (in state schools), this universal approach is very liberal as it avoids the creation and reinforcement of an unhelpful social division; that only serves to further feed the politic’s of envy. It also catches those children from families which for various reasons are probably entitled to free school meals, but don’t make an application. As for it benefiting the higher income households, I suggest treat it as a sweetener to such households for placing their faith in state education.

  • @Roland

    ” As for it benefiting the higher income households, I suggest treat it as a sweetener to such households for placing their faith in state education.”

    But that does not change the fact that these 2 polices combined are going to cost £1.15 Billion
    And in effect, high income households are going to benefit from these 2 polices by a further £550 a year.

    This money could have been spent much more wisely and targeted much much better.

    So I cant see this as a sweetener im afraid, though I have no doubt that people from higher incomes will be feeling rather sweet

  • Richard Church 17th Sep '13 - 10:41pm

    If these means that children learn better, and the evidence suggests that is what it means, then its money well spent, regardless of the wealth of their parents.

  • @Richard Church.

    Spot on.

    Furthermore, Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith policy being reinstated. Excellent.

  • Richard Dean 17th Sep '13 - 10:57pm

    Does the evidence really exist? I might agree with Richard Church if it does, but the link that Stephen Tall provided went to a website that can hardly be described as unbiased. Social division based on income will exist whether or not school meals are free to everyone rather than just the needy. There’s no reason that the meals situation should affect divisive attitudes at all, unless it does so through irresponsible actions of teachers. In the absence of evidence I’d agree with matt.

  • To me it seems as though the Tories have played a blinder yet again and Nick Clegg just does not get it.
    He is being out smarted and outmaneuvered every time .

    The Tories get their tax break for married couples which Libdems have always apposed because it is discriminatory. Not to mention that this is nothing but a shameless attempt at winning votes of the middle classes who they have hit so hard for the last 3 years.
    Then to top it off, the Tories get to help their mates with a further free tax break by giving the richest back the losses from child benefit by giving their kids free meals.

    And Clegg thinks he has “won” on this one

    He should remember the old saying, there is no such thing as a free meal.

    Someone is going to have to pay for this and be in no doubt, it will be off the backs of the poor.

  • Jayne Mansfield 17th Sep '13 - 11:30pm

    At last, an excellent proposal. The beneficial effects of a child having proper meals is well documented.

    Please sir, I want some more.

  • Richard Dean 17th Sep '13 - 11:34pm

    @Jayne. This does not appear to be about children having proper school meals, but about whether parents who can afford it should pay for them.

  • Peter Watson 17th Sep '13 - 11:34pm

    Obviously a well-fed child will perform better than an unfed child.
    But since this is billed as saving parents £400 per child, then it is not about feeding children who are currently missing out.

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Sep '13 - 11:48pm

    I don’t get this at all. As far as I can see this is basically another winter fuel payment. Why not just post every parent in the country with a child in state education aged 5-7 a no-questions-asked cheque? That is what we do with the winter fuel payment and the fact that pensioners can spend that cheque on booze and fags doesn’t seem to trouble anyone.

    Why exactly should poor young workers underwrite the costs of school meals for well-to-do families. Indeed, my (single) friend is about to be paying for the school meals of his BTL landlord’s children it would seem. Come to think of it the landlord doubles up on the marriage tax allowance. Good for him, not so good for low-income single workers.

    And please can we not use the word, ‘universal,’ here. It is for everyone who has children of a certain age in certain types of school. That is universal in no meaningful sense of the term.

  • “But that does not change the fact that these 2 polices combined are going to cost £1.15 Billion”

    It does seem that whenever there’s a benefit to be handed out to middle-class, middle-income voters, there is absolutely no difficulty finding the funding.

    But whenever the most vulnerable are in the firing line, we’re given the old mantra about money being extremely tight. And about there being no alternative, and so on and so forth.

    As Stephen Tall says, there’s an election coming.

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '13 - 12:04am

    It is interesting to see the progressive exaggeration in claims about the benefits of universal free school meals (though reports show Clegg emphasising the cashback rather than any academic improvement). Above, we read “students were academically months ahead of their peers elsewhere” – sounds good. The School Food Plan is a bit more precise: “Students in the pilot areas were on average two months ahead of their peers elsewhere.”. Still good though. The original research (commissioned by Labour by the way) reported “pupils in the pilot areas making between four and eight weeks’ more progress than similar pupils in comparison areas” ( So not the same as an average of two months, but still impressive.
    But the report cautions, “It is important to note that the pilot included substantial investment in catering facilities and activities to encourage take-up of school meals by schools and local authorities, supported by the School Food Trust. The activities included engagement and promotion activities with parents and the enforcement of strict packed lunch policies. The impacts reported should therefore be seen as the impacts of the whole pilot approach, rather than solely as the effects of making free school meals more widely available.”

  • @Matt – “these 2 polices combined are going to cost £1.15 Billion”
    Remember that by means testing child benefit the government saved significantly more than this. You are forgetting that higher income families don’t qualify for child benefit and won’t qualify for the marriage tax allowance. So the main beneficiaries are likely to be low to middle income households…

    @Richard – “Does the evidence really exist?”
    I suggest sitting in on a reception/KS1 class, the effects of missed breakfast and poor lunches are quite obvious, and I’m not a teacher. Interestingly, it isn’t just children from poor families that arrive at school without having had breakfast…

  • Shirley Campbell 18th Sep '13 - 12:07am

    OMG, I would only eat these so-called “healthy” meals if I were starving.

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '13 - 12:08am

    Oops. Wrong link. This is the academic report rather than the one-sided one from the school food plan:

  • Of all the places we could plant our flag, we had to do it on an issue upon which there is no substantial problem. The very poor can already claim free school dinners. At a time when the budget deficit continues to drive up our debt we cannot afford to casually spend on those who do not need it. This will only serve to undermine our economic credibility, especially when there are many other issues (like actual education) we could be spending this money on, if at all.

  • Richard Dean 18th Sep '13 - 12:19am

    Have you done that, and actually conducted a survey to ask the children involved whether they had breakfast or not? Or did you just guess? This is about lunch, not breakfast, and if children are not eating lunch for financial reasons then the teachers should be doing something to correct that – free lunches being available at present.

    What happened is that Clegg and Cameron agreed to give free money to the people they expect to support them in an election. It seems to me that a happy well-off husband and wife with two children gets around £1000, but a lone parent bringing up a single child who already qualifies for free school meals gets nothing. Is that fair?

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '13 - 12:33am

    @Richard Dean ” a lone parent bringing up a single child who already qualifies for free school meals gets nothing”
    In many instances that lone parent might also be losing some of their housing benefit courtesy of the bedroom tax / spare room subsidy.

  • @Richard Dean

    “What happened is that Clegg and Cameron agreed to give free money to the people they expect to support them in an election. It seems to me that a happy well-off husband and wife with two children gets around £1000, but a lone parent bringing up a single child who already qualifies for free school meals gets nothing. Is that fair?”

    Thank you, that’s the point I was trying to make but I have to admit I got so hot under the collar when this was announced that I went into a rant.

    You have said it as it is, plain and simply.

    I can not see any evidence other than that this will benefit more for those people who are better off and who can afford to feed their own kinds anyway.

    Nick Clegg has failed yet again to see that Cameron and the Tories are peeing up his back and laughing all the way to the polls.

  • The Telegraph says:
    “At present, around 400,000 children in the first three years of primary education are eligible for free school meals. Mr Clegg’s change means another 1.5 million children will not have to pay for lunches.”

    In other words, this is a state handout for the wealthiest 80% of families.

    Why? Even viewed from the perspective of shameless electoral self-interest, why should this benefit the Lib Dems rather than the Tories? Just because Cameron has said “OK, Nick, I’ll let you claim credit for this one, provided you give me a quid pro quo”?

    What has happened to our politics?

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '13 - 1:18am

    @Little Jackie Paper “As far as I can see this is basically another winter fuel payment. Why not just post every parent in the country with a child in state education aged 5-7 a no-questions-asked cheque?”
    This does raise an interesting comparison between this and the flagship Pupil Premium policy.
    With the Pupil Premium, poorer pupils see money given to their schools. With our new policy, better off pupils see money given to their parents.

  • I am incensed by this policy as it looks to me like a David Laws wheeze. This is going to cost £600m a year and it is a universal benefit. As far as I know it is not party policy and seems it is being done because it will be popular and may increase our chances at the next general election. At some point in the future this policy will be abolished like free school milk. As Liberal Democrats we should be helping those in poverty and not giving welfare to every parent no matter their income. I believe the money should have been used to end the “bedroom tax” (the spare room subsidy) which is going to save the government £505m this year and £540m next year and has had to have £190m in discretionary help this year. If the “bedroom tax” (the spare room subsidy) was abolished some of the £250m left over could be used to help more of the children from poor families by increasing the upper limit for those in work from £16,190 per year.

    It has been stated that we got this because the Tories got a marriage couple tax break. It is wrong for us to agree to this tax break. Matt stated, “high income households are going to benefit from these 2 policies by … £550” but if they had two children they would receive £950 while unmarried parents who are already getting free schools meals receive nothing but will also being paying more council tax because of the abolishing of the national council tax benefit system and ensuring that councils end giving benefit for 100% of the council tax to those of working age.

  • Shirley Ann Campbell 18th Sep '13 - 1:52am

    Please move on. People in general no longer enjoy their main meal of the day at midday. Such was once the norm but no more. I feel that it would be more productive to ensure that people have sufficient income to support their families. Children, in common with the rest of us, are becoming accustomed to eating their main meal of the day in the evening.

    We all face the necessity of promoting a living wage for all. W e all face the necessity of promoting a living wage that promotes the dignity of labour and enables people to provide for their families ; it is what we should all be striving for.

  • Jayne Mansfield 18th Sep '13 - 2:43am

    @Richard Dean
    Richard,having read some of the posts, the motivation for this proposal does not concern me at all. I believe that money spent on universal free lunches is money well spent.

    The very poor may be already be entitled to free school meals but stigma prevents some of those entitled to free meals from claiming it.

    I also think that it is wrong to assume which families can or can’t afford them. Now that the poor are vilified for being poor, I believe that the number of those who hide their financial difficulties cannot be ignored. Try asking a few teachers about the poor quality of some of the packed lunches of some of the children of families who do not appear to be eligible for free school meals.

    As for the argument elsewhere that this policy would undermine the Lib Dems economic credibility. In my opinion that was undermined when the Lib Dems supported Cameron’s rush to war? Even in these times of austerity, there seems to be spare change around for some projects but not others. Personally, I would rather feed children than bomb them.

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '13 - 7:33am

    On the subject of Clegg/Laws negotiations with the conservatives, I note that when the “School Food Plan” (which was commissioned by Gove) was published, Gove (and Boris Johnson) welcomed its findings: “I would like to thank John and Henry for the hard work that went into this this plan and believe we now have a set of actions that can make a real difference in schools right across the country.” ( I suspect that the deal was for Clegg to be allowed some credit for one of two policies that the conservatives wanted.

  • Michael Gove actually announced this policy in July

    It’s not a Lib Dem original.

    Begs the question, what is the quid pro quo for pretending it is?

  • Richard Dean 18th Sep '13 - 8:25am

    @Jayne Mansfield

    As matt and others have pointed out, someone else will have to pay for these helicopter funds, and quite possibly the people who pay will be, precisely, the poor.

    Is there evidence that “stigma” prevents significant numbers of poor people from applying for help? I suspect rather that “stigma” is an excuse that richer people use for their purposes.

  • David Wilkinson 18th Sep '13 - 8:30am

    A good idea from Cleggie at last.
    Some of the posts show a complete lack of understanding of the issues around schools meals ,including the educational part of the arguement and sadly display the usual bigotry towards anything looking like its middle class and same the bleed them dry attitude
    One thing it will do is removed the sigma of free school meals and roll on the idea of free bus travel for young people.

  • @ Matt

    You never have ANYTHING to say that is positive about the Lib Dems or Nick Clegg, do you? You always manage to twist whatever happens or is said into a supposed negative. Your comments on the announcement of free school meals just underline this.

    There are many poor parents whose children don’t qualify for free school meals at present and who will benefit directly from this measure. The study of the effectiveness of this measure showed significant benefits for children’s learning where free school meals were provided. While there may be some additional benefit to better off parents, most of the incremental benefit will go to the less well-off. This is all about levelling the playing field between the children of poor families and the rest and I think it will work and is money jolly well spent. (So there).

  • I would go much further and provide every school child with a healthy breakfast and lunch.
    I would even look at providing free school uniforms (or abolishing them completely).
    I would abolish Child Benefit to pay for this, which I doubt most people would agree with…

  • No Richard (and others) read and understand the detail – Where this money actually gets spent is up to the individual schools!

    Yes Nick et al have given a massive public steer as to where they would like this money spent, and dressed this initiative up in a parent/voter friendly way, however the reality of the policy is that schools will be receiving additional monies (yet to be disclosed but probably around £300) per pupil in Reception and KS1 which like the pupil premium they are free to spend how they want… So the net effect (in my area) would seem to be a per pupil funding increase of 10~15%. Also, but we do await the publication of the details, there is no mention of withdrawing existing funding for free school meals for pupils in these age group.

    Hence why it really is up to parents to put press on to t he schools if they really want their children to receive free midday meals or an additional classroom assistant etc…

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Sep '13 - 9:27am

    This is just absolutely ridiculous, why is it just school dinners that need action? What about dinners all year round for the families suffering from the benefit cuts? The only reason I can think of is because catering companies will get paid from it. I have no evidence for that, but it is my opinion and I should be allowed to say it.

  • @ G

    Tell the Liberal government of 1906 that it was Michael Gove who came up with it 😉

  • Helen Dudden 18th Sep '13 - 9:46am

    I have just had an email from the Children’s Society, very pleased that children will have a chance to eat a meal that is hot during the day. This meal should not contain anything, that is not of good food value. I also suggest food kitchens during holiday times, this I will put forward too.

    I think that your Party does not realize what it is doing to those who can’t afford your cuts. Some children are not being fed properly, and are going hungry. This figure of course only grows.

    Of course, Nick Clegg is going to take as much credit for the good that is happening, before the bad. Things like the “bedroom tax” and the cost of living.

    It is something, when the UN accuses the Government of human rights abuses. Could I add that your Party was in Government during the General Strike in 1926, I have told that things were far from good then.

    So glad that I am no longer a member and all I can say is, I can’t agree with your Party on anything now. How I stayed with you for 21 years, is something I do not understand.

  • @RC

    Actually RC there are a few times that I have praised the Lib dems, It just so happens that this is in the minority and there have been far more critical criticisms. That’s not my fault, it’s the fault of the party for some of the stuff they have done 😉

    I am entitled to air my grievances, you may not like them, if they bother you so much there is a private members forum where you can freely talk in your tribal manor and not be inconvenienced by those who dare not share your views.

    These policies have been directed at middle income and higher income families. They are of no benefit to the poorest people in society who are already in receipt of free school meals/

    I have no doubt that there are quite a few families who would be entitled to free school meals, but chose not to register, probably because this government has stigmatized those who are reliant on welfare.
    That’s what happens when you divide societies.

    This government has harped on and on about cutting the deficit, cutting services, They have capped welfare increases at 1%, which in real terms is a cut.
    Those families that are seeing their real terms cuts to benefits, bedroom tax, council tax increases, the list goes on and on.
    Then the government announces these 2 policies that combined are going to cost 1.15 Billion Pounds which will put money back in the pockets of the middle and higher income earners.

    So if you expect me to sing and trumpet and praise this government and the Liberal Democrats for doing this, then you will be sadly disappointed.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Sep '13 - 10:09am

    I don’t mean to say I think Nick wants to benefit the catering companies and charity’s back pockets, but what I do mean to say is that 100% of this money will not go to children or parents, so we need to get tougher with lobbyists and vested interests. The answer is not the lobbying bill, it is to stop agreeing to send third-party interests money all the time. This is the second time this week after the 5p bag thing.

  • Steve Griffiths 18th Sep '13 - 10:12am

    Helen Dudden

    I think the Tories were in government alone in 1926.

  • @Matt
    Nice to see that you wish to see policies that only serve to perpetuate divisions in society 🙂

  • What problem is this trying to fix?

    These smacks of “let’s come up with something popular, then look for a problem it fixes”.

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '13 - 11:46am

    @Roland “Nice to see that you wish to see policies that only serve to perpetuate divisions in society :)”
    How will throwing more money at schools/parents in affluent areas where few children are currently eligible for free school meals reduce those divisions?

  • I note that the Child Poverty Action Group backed Scottish Socialist Party MSP, Tommy Sheridan’s attempt to get free school meals for all pupils.

  • Richard Dean 18th Sep '13 - 12:42pm


    You seem to be saying that, in return for accepting a married tax allowance, Clegg has been allowed to BLATANTLY LIE, unchallenged, about a small increase in funding for primary schools, making fools of people like Jayne Mansfield, matt, myself, and others who believed the lie that the money is for meals. Is that correct?

    We’re not being governed, are we? No-one’s really thinking what’s best, or right, or compassionate, or even Liberal or Democratic. Instead, we’re being wooed. I’d better vote Labour, except they seem just as bad.

  • @Peter
    I’m a little surprised that you need the concept of: eat together, play together and grow-up together, explaining.

    Yes free school meals won’t magically make divisions disappear; however, it is yet another step along the road of caring for your neighbour and grooming for responsible citizenship. At the school I’m involved with, we make efforts to ensure ALL children can go on school trips etc. so whilst on the surface everyone is seen to pay, behind the scenes some cross funding/subsidy may have happened so that individual children are not singled out…

    I would like to know how those who bang on about the ‘poor’ and make divisive remarks about middle and high earners, with no understanding or regard to their social backgrounds, think their policies based on envy will reduce these divisions.

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Sep '13 - 1:38pm


    I think you’ve misread or misunderstood this sentence in the OP:
    “Money is also being provided for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but as education is a devolved issue, it will be up to those running schools there to decide whether to spend the money on free lunches. ”

    In other words, the Education Ministers of the three devolved countries will get to decide how to spend the extra money coming their way as part of the settlement; but in England the money will be spent on providing free school meals, and nowhere does it say that individual schools will be free to choose how to spend it. (I’m in favour of the policy, by the way; but what Richard and the others are arguing against is exactly what’s been announced, not a misinterpretation.)

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Sep '13 - 1:39pm

    *sigh* Another html fail.

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '13 - 1:49pm

    @Roland “I’m a little surprised that you need the concept of: eat together, play together and grow-up together, explaining.”
    Exactly how are the children receiving this money in an affluent suburb going to eat together, play together and grow-up together with the children in an impoverished inner-city school miles away, where many are already eligible for free school meals? More of this money will go to the former than the latter.

  • “At the school I’m involved with, we make efforts to ensure ALL children can go on school trips etc. so whilst on the surface everyone is seen to pay, behind the scenes some cross funding/subsidy may have happened so that individual children are not singled out…”

    Then why on earth not do the same with school dinners? You’re not suggesting the state should subsidise school trips for the children of millionaires, are you?

  • No Richard, Clegg has stayed true to a LibDem policy regarding early years education and has negotiated what I would regard as a good compromise deal. In fact looking back at the married tax allowance and all the caveats around it, I think Nick’s investment in children will give greater long term social benefit and probably increase the “feel good factor” and hence encourage spending much more than the very limited married tax allowance will achieve.

    Nick has made it very clear why schools are getting this money, who it is for and what it is for. Additionally, he has sold it to parents, to get them on side. Hence for a school not to use this money as intended ie. for meals, it will need to present a very good case.

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '13 - 2:01pm

    @Roland “Clegg has stayed true to a LibDem policy regarding early years education and has negotiated what I would regard as a good compromise deal.”
    Other posters have pointed out that Gove was keen on this 2 months ago, so what do we believe that Clegg has actually negotiated. We seem to have a policy that Gove can quite happily claim as his if it is popular (but can also now disown if it is not), whilst allowing through a policy that we openly opposed.
    The bottom line though is surely, do these two policies really represent the best way to spend more than one billion pounds every year?

  • @Malcolm
    Thanks, I realised I had misinterpreted that sentence in Stephen’s article when responding to Richard just now. But I think given Nick’s pitch, these devolved countries will either need to have brass necks or very good reasons not to follow through…
    But we do need to see the details to ensure that there really isn’t any optionality in the way schools in England can spend the money, as this is the sort of loophole we can expect given the experience of the pupil premium.

  • @Peter
    i would say the circa £600m investment in children is better value and will do more for the economy long term than either the £550m married tax allowance or the circa £2bn per annum spend on HS2. (Aside: it will be the children who benefit from this initiative who will be the main users of HS2; if it gets built.)

  • Copied from a post in the Independent – checked what I could it seems to be accurate.

    Mr Clegg: “It’s my idea, it’s a Liberal Democrat idea. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long period of time.”

    Actual timeline:

    September 2008 – Labour Government announces plans to pilot extending the entitlement to free school meals in three areas

    Autumn 2009 – Pilot begins. In Newham and Durham local authorities all pupils are eligible, in Wolverhampton it’s only extended to those families on Working Families Tax Credit, to enable the evaluation to test the effectiveness of different approaches

    June 2010 – Incoming coalition government scraps roll-out plans following pilots saying that Labour had “underestimated the cost” but that the pilots would continue to run their course to “learn lessons for the future”

    Summer 2011 – Pilots come to their conclusion with the end of the summer term.

    July 2012 – Comprehensive evaluation of the pilots is published showing that pupils in the areas where all children were eligible made around 5-8 weeks more progress than similar children in comparison areas, although the evaluation is unable to explain the mechanism through which these results were achieved.

    September 2013 – Nick Clegg announces the policy as his idea!

    We can argue whether it is a good idea or not – I am not convinced to be honest – but is it really a LD policy seeing that it was proposed by the last Government which would have looked to implement after a pilot was completed.

  • There are many children who do not currently qualify for free school meals who are far from affluent (income over £16k). These children will benefit most from this policy. Of the 1.4m beneficiaries, an estimated 200,000 younger pupils currently in poverty but ineligible for free school meals will now qualify for the Clegg Dinners.

  • Nick Clegg: ‘It’s my idea.’

    Simon Shaw: ‘It is not “his idea”.’


  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '13 - 4:21pm

    @David Cox “Of the 1.4m beneficiaries, an estimated 200,000 younger pupils currently in poverty but ineligible for free school meals will now qualify for the Clegg Dinners.”
    So 85% of those receiving the benefit do not need it?

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '13 - 4:30pm

    @Roland “i would say the circa £600m investment in children is better value and will do more for the economy long term than either the £550m married tax allowance or the circa £2bn per annum spend on HS2.”
    Almost certainly. But so would many other ways to spend the money.

    Might it not be better to use the £600m to increase the Pupil Premium, or do Lib Dems think there are problems with that flagship policy?

    Until we know where the £600m is coming from (bedroom tax?), how can we be sure it is not better left where it is?

    If the cost of spending this £600m was allowing the tories to waste another £550m, perhaps it would have been a better investment in the long term economy to reduce the deficit by £1.15 billion per year.

  • “George Osborne, the Chancellor, will announce how he will fund the £1.2bn a year of extra spending in his autumn statement later this year. Treasury sources suggested it could mean cuts elsewhere.”–and-tax-breaks-for-married-couples-8822480.html

  • @Peter
    I was under the impression that the monies came from the changes to child benefit which will have kicked in by September 2014. I seem to remember that one of the reasons why Nick supported the changes to Child Benefit was that it wasn’t seen as a particularly good way of targeting money at children and hence some of the savings would go on early years initiatives (I’m sure there are articles on LDV about this subject).

    A problem with the Pupil Premium is that it only flows to those in receipt of free school meals, so as David Cox points out, there are many children who would fail to benefit…

    I really don’t see what the problem is, the policy is simple, don’t punish the child for the doings of their parents.

  • Helen Dudden 18th Sep '13 - 9:08pm

    Simon Shaw. I did provide you with the “inside housing.” This is a web page that is well known to many in the social housing sector.

    Your own Party Members, have been writing on housing subjects over the last few days.

    I suggest that you google “inside housing” click on comments, and go from there. You will note that I comment on the site quite a lot too.

    Try it, the comments are truthful, as it represents those in the social housing sector. Off to a Conference very soon on social housing, I like family law and issues.

    Sorry, but I do not spend my time writing comments.

  • @Simon Shaw

    “If you insist on referring to the UN condemning the state of human rights in the UK, could you provide a link?”

    I am not sure that anyone from the UN has actually produced a report as yet detailing it’s findings, however, the UN is investigating a lot to do with the governments welfare reforms.

    In fact they are now looking in to the work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance and they are seeking testimonials from claimants.

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '13 - 9:25pm

    @Simon Shaw “Oh, I like that. Do you mind if I use that against the controlling Labour Group at the next Sefton MBC Budget Council meeting?”
    I am certainly guilty of a cheeky dig, but more seriously I was suggesting that if the Pupil Premium is so good (despite some accusations of moving money around the education budget rather than finding new money), then if we have a spare half-billion pounds each year why not have more of a good thing?
    Obviously it comes down to priorities, but the pot of money is finite, and if the government can so easily find more than a billion pounds each year, then is a tax allowance for married couples and free school meals for middle class children really the best use of it?

  • The preliminary report from the UN on social housing and the bedroom tax can be found here

    The official full report will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2014

  • Helen Dudden 18th Sep '13 - 10:31pm

    I did, and so did you. I should know, I do like to input in to both law and human rights.

    Knew you could it, you only had to try.

    Well Done!

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '13 - 11:58pm

    Currently watching Andrew Marr interviewing Tim Farron. I had not realised that when Southwark (Labour council) introduced universal free school meals in 2011, Lib Dems (especially Simon Hughes) attacked the idea.
    A local Lib Dem leaflet criticised “millions for free food for the richest kids”. Simon Hughes wrote, “Labour-run Southwark Council are wasting extraordinary amounts of money. They are spending £15 million giving free school meals, some of this going to the borough’s richest families, irrespective of whether they can afford to pay for them already.”

    So today, Clegg’s speech trumpets universal free school meals as something which distinguishes good Lib Dems from bad tories in government. But it appears to be a measure approved by Gove in July, and implemented by a Labour authority (following pilots commissioned by a Labour government) despite Lib Dem opposition. I really have to wonder what is the point of the party I used to vote for?

  • Peter Watson 19th Sep '13 - 12:10am

    @Simon Shaw “I think you misunderstand what Nick is about to announce. It is not “his idea”.”

    If you listen to Clegg speaking ( – about 55 seconds in), he claims, “It’s my idea. It’s a Liberal Democrat idea. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long period of time.”
    Obviously though all of the evidence suggests that you are right and Clegg is wrong, but I don’t recall reading one of your posts contradicting Clegg so flatly. 😉

  • Peter Watson 19th Sep '13 - 12:23am

    The more I google, the more the Lib Dems seem to be the last to the party on universal free schools.
    Reporting on the Durham trials back in 2009 ( the Durham Times said, “Until now, only Hull City Council has tested out free meals for all, but the scheme was scrapped when the Liberal Democrats took over from Labour, before it had been properly evaluated.”

  • Peter Watson 19th Sep '13 - 12:34am

    Also looks like the SNP was at the party before the Lib Dems as well (
    despite-cost-concerns.html): “The Scottish Parliament voted by a margin of 87 to 28 to approve a statutory instrument implementing the change, with SNP and Labour MSPs in favour and Tories and Liberal Democrats against.”

    I’m probably guilty of selective quoting, but it is fun! More seriously it leaves me wondering what is the point of the Lib Dems now and why I should ever consider returning to the fold. Anchoring in the centre ground seems to involve flip-flopping to stay in between the other parties. If I can’t trust the party to hold a consistent position, how can I know what it stands for?

  • Jayne Mansfield 19th Sep '13 - 3:00am

    @Peter Watson
    Yes, asI understand it, it was originally a Labour idea, and in my opinion, an excellent one.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but the Liberal Democrats opposed the pilot schemes proposed for Islington as well as Southall and scrapped the free school meals pilot that was being run in Hull before it was properly evaluated.

    The last Labour government also planned to extend the free school meals pilots by extending to a pilot scheme in every region . This extension of pilots was scrapped by the coalition government on the grounds of affordability The Labour also intended to extend free school meals to those receiving working tax credits . The Child Poverty Action Group lobbied for this as it was argued that the policy would raise a further 50,000 children of the working poor out of poverty.

    As far as I am concerned, I don’t really care whose idea it is, although I do think it is a bit rich of Nick Clegg to claim that it is his.

    I think that it is also a bit rich to argue that it is either unaffordable, or that money will flow to the rich. ( Simon Hughes poster).As a former school governor, I can say that in our school there were no rich parents because they had chosen to educate their children privately.

    I assume that those who make the unaffordable argument, vehemently opposed to the reduction of the 50p tax rate for those earning over £150,000 a year having opposed free school meals pilots, deprived children of free swimming lessons and amongst other things, supported a cut to housing benefit.

    @Richard Dean
    Richard, yes there is evidence that parents do not apply for school meals because of the stigma involved, both research evidence and anecdotal. I listened to Nick Clegg’s speech today and also to the Andrew Neil’s interview with Tim Farron that followed where he was challenged on the Liberal Democrats commitment to free school given their history on the matter. Mr Farron avoided answering the question, choosing instead to argue for the Lib Dem initiative on the grounds that a large number of his constituents who were eligible did not claim because of stigma of pride.

  • As Roland’s school can behind the scenes ensure that children from poor families go on school trips then why can’t all schools ensure that all children from poor families receive free school meals if they are entitled to them.

    I also saw Tim Farron on the BBC not having an answer to why Liberal Democrats opposed free school meals for primary schools in Southwark. The answer is that it isn’t party policy. Also claiming this policy as being Lib Dem doesn’t appear honest if both sides of the coalition are in favour and wanted it even if neither has it as party policy.

  • Simon Shaw

    Care to come back to comment on these points made about LD opposition to universal free school meals in the past?

    Seems a little inconsistent to me

  • Helen Dudden 19th Sep '13 - 7:21am

    The truth is sometimes surprising.

    I also have heard that those children who pay for meals ,sit separately from those who do not. If this is true, no wonder any child would feel they would rather go hungry than eat.

  • “I also have heard that those children who pay for meals ,sit separately from those who do not. If this is true, no wonder any child would feel they would rather go hungry than eat.”

    If that’s true it’s ridiculous. I remember this being an issue when I was at school in the 1970s. But the government doesn’t have to spend £600m a year to deal with it. It should be a simple enough matter to arrange the system so that it’s not obvious who is getting free school meals and who is paying.

  • @Helen Dudden

    “I also have heard that those children who pay for meals ,sit separately from those who do not. If this is true, no wonder any child would feel they would rather go hungry than eat.”

    I do so hope those kind of practices have changed.

    I remember when I was at school, though I freely admit this was over 20 years ago now 🙁 used to be one of the students who got free school meals.

    We used to have to line up in a separate cue to have our names marked off a register and claim a tatty old Silver Token, which as I recall was worth 75p at the time.

    The whole experience was pretty humiliating to be honest. No end of time the students that were lining up to collect their free lunch token where subjected to cruel jokes by the other students.
    It was one of the better comprehensive schools which had a large portion of pupils that came from well off or middle class families.

    I also recall vividly feeling humiliated by my head of year on many occasions at lunch time.
    I had an eating disorder due to other traumatic life events that affected my childhood that I will not go int on this thread but it is known by some on these forums. I was extremely skinny and underweight but nobody knew what the underlying cause for this was.
    It got to the situation where I had to meet my head of year at the beginning on lunch, who would then escort me to the dinner hall, line up with me to collect my free dinner token, then watch me join the queue f or the canteen to make sure I brought lunch and sat down to eat.
    Of course this just added fuel to the fire for some people who just sprang to the assumption that I too was ashamed to be a “free school dinner student”

    Not very pleasant times I can assure you.
    So I can totally relate to some students and indeed parents would be reluctant to claim free school meals because of the stigma that is attached to it.
    I would hope that 20 years on though, things would have changed and schools would be a lot more discreet on which students are receiving free lunches.

  • @Amalric
    I have some sympathy with your viewpoint, however, the simple answer is that the school has discretion over the funding of school trips/outings whereas the funding for free school meals comes from budget allocations hence requires parents to come forward and be means tested. Also, with many children having home prepared packed lunches, it is not an option to ask these parents for a lunch contribution, whereas with school trips no one really wants their child to be the one to miss out.

  • Grace Goodlad 19th Sep '13 - 12:23pm

    I wonder how many of the kids benefiting from this will be suffering from the impact of the Bedroom tax, cuts to social services and libraries and other issues. It’s a lovely, shiny feel-good policy but when we are cutting local govt, the nhs etc. etc. is it really targeting the people who need help most , or are we just chasing middle class families votes?

  • Peter Watson 19th Sep '13 - 12:44pm

    @Grace Goodlad “are we just chasing middle class families votes”
    This policy would come into effect in September 2014. Later that same school year is the general election. Coincidence?
    Could backfire though. If it is a vote winner then Labour can claim that it was their idea and Lib Dems used to oppose it. Even the tories can point to the fact that Gove commissioned and accepted the report that recommended it. If it is seen as a waste of half-a-billion pounds then it’s all the Lib Dems’ fault.

  • Jayne Mansfield 19th Sep '13 - 1:07pm

    @ Grace Goodland.
    Don’t knock chasing the middle class vote. That is my vote that you are chasing after.

    Many of we middle class remember what poverty was like and behave accordingly. Matt’s story moved me to tears because I remember the stigmatisation of children who were entitled to free school meals. My family were working poor but I think that my mother would have gnawed her own arm off rather than have me be a ‘free school meals kid’. Because it was a happy home, I didn’t realise how poor we were.

    Do you really think that things have changed? If anything I think that things have regressed to one where we categorise people as the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’ poor. Children are the victims of this.

    The number of breakfast clubs have decreased during the lifetime of this government and school meals are sometimes the only decent meal that a child gets in a day. It is a benefit that goes directly to the child.

    Before anyone repeats that poor children already get free school meals, I say that many don’t because of the reasons Tim Farron articulated stigma and pride. No child in a rich country such as this should go hungry and they certainly should not be expected to concentrate and learn.

    Emotional , yes. unashamedly so, but a rational argument can be made for my position. Whether we choose to feed our children and spare them the shame and stigma of poverty which has become in some quarters synonymous with moral weakness is a choice. As far as I am concerned it is money well spent , and if some middle class children get my grandchildren get a free school meal in the process so be it. They will be spared the raging, impotent sense of injustice that I experienced before the age of eleven, when I saw the shaming of some of my classmates.

  • Peter Watson 19th Sep '13 - 1:27pm

    I think there are (at least) four separate questions that get muddled in this discussion.
    My take on them is:
    Is “universal free school meals” a good idea? Probably.
    Is it a Lib Dem idea? No.
    Is it the best way to spend half-a-billion pounds per year? No.
    Is this blatant electioneering? Yes.

  • @Grace Goodlad – I think you will find the modern “middle class” has much more diverse social mix of people that it was in times past and is probably better defined as modest to high income households, where people are sufficiently wealthy to not be dependent upon benefits but also not of “independent means”.

    Yes it is absolutely right to attend to this group as they make up the majority of the working population, otherwise what are we doing? We take a child from a poor/traditional working class background, give them every opportunity to be the best they can, so that they can leave behind the social stigma of “being poor” or “working class”, only once they become a net contributor to society to stigmatise them as “middle class”…

  • I think there are two issues here:

    1. Is this based upon reliable research?
    That seems to be the case and therefore it should be supported.

    2. Did the Lib Dems previously oppose them?
    This also seems to be the case. However, we need to move beyond jumping up and down whenever a party changes their mind or direction – the dreaded U-Turn. I run a business with 1000 employees, and guess what I change my mind often, sometimes the circumstances change, sometimes the data I based my original opinion on changed and sometimes I was just plain wrong. To my mind the party that starts to say openly, “we were wrong, we based our original position on X which has now been superceded by Y”.

  • Peter Watson 19th Sep '13 - 2:45pm

    @Steve Way “”To my mind the party that starts to say openly, “we were wrong, we based our original position on X which has now been superceded by Y”.”
    For me though, the bit that has been missing in many of the Lib Dem U-turns is the explanation of why and acknowledgement that the previous position was wrong (or even existed!).
    Specifically on universal free school meals, previous Lib Dem opposition to the idea has sneaked out after Nick Clegg claimed it as his idea, a Lib Dem idea, and he also ignored the fact that it was a Labour idea, a SNP idea, even a tory idea. And we’ve magically leapt from austerity and cuts to more than a billion pounds per year for a couple of pet projects with no explanation about why it’s suddenly affordable. Too many of these reversals make it unclear what exactly are Lib Dem principles and policies, and makes the party look shifty and opportunistic. At least the tory married person’s tax allowance is consistent with promises they made to their voters in 2010.

  • Jayne Mansfield 19th Sep '13 - 5:07pm

    @ Roland
    Well said sir.

    I must admit to a wry amusement when people who can argue about the stance John Stuart Mill would take on the burkha start to worry about chasing the middle class vote!

    My late mother, born 1903 went into domestic service at the age of thirteen, she worked hard and was proud of me for achieving her aim of making sure no daughter of hers went into domestic service.

    Needless to say, I don’t watch Downton Abbey and I have always wanted taxes taken from my husband and I to go to making the lives of the generations of children who have followed me better than it was for my mother from the age of thirteen.

    I really would like the Liberal Democrats to explain to me how the coalition have made the lives of children better during their time in government. The pupil premium as I understand it only follows children who are entitled to school meals and that number has been reduced because of the opposition to Labour policy on extending the number of children entitled to it.

    Can someone please tell me whether on balance, when it seems to me that there has been a policy of taking away with one hand and giving with the other, this government has improved or made worse , the lot of poor children?

  • Sorry my last post should have finished …. Will gain more trust in the long run.

  • Peter Watson 20th Sep '13 - 12:22am

    Perhaps not for the first time, it turns out Clegg’s big idea is Balls’ (

  • @ Roland
    I was not advocating schools try and get parents to claim benefits. I was advocating them trying to discover which parents were getting benefits that entitled children to free school lunch or those with earnings under £16,190 per year.

    I don’t understand why a child would need to claim free school meals every day they could do it for the term. Also it could be done via email with the parents.

    Clearly this is not an original Lib Dem idea. It is not party policy so when implemented on a local basis it was right for each local Lib Dem group to take their own individual position.

  • I See from a lot of Liberal Democrat supporters on here and a lot of Liberal Democrats MP’s and Lords trying to defend this policy.

    I also see the same things being said, on why this policy is so important.

    Shirley Williams for instance on Question Time last night, who insisted many times that there are too many parents who are eligible for free school meals, but don’t because of the stigma that is attached to it.

    I agree in the sense that a lot of people may not be claiming what is entitled because of the stigmatization.

    But is the answer, well lets make school meals “free for all”

    The answer should be, it’s shameful that in today’s society families are feeling stigmatized and Vilified for being in receipt of welfare.
    The answer must be, what can we do as a government to stop this vilification of the poorer classes.
    The answer must be THIS GOVERNMENT and the RIGHT WING MEDIA must stop this constant vilification and propaganda aimed at those on welfare and low wages.

    Its hypocrisy for this government to use excuses like this to defend what is in affect a policy that is putting more money in the pockets of the middle and high income earners.

    A decent and responsible government would be addressing the stigmatization being aimed at the poor,

    But that will not happen, because that does not fit with the Tory Ideology which the Liberal Democrats are helping to create.

  • Peter Watson 20th Sep '13 - 12:01pm

    I can’t help but feel this policy devalues the Pupil Premium. Having given schools £900 for each child eligible for free school meals, this scheme gives £400 to the parents of the other children.

  • Matt, I think you miss the point that just because parents can afford to feed their children appropriately it doesn’t mean they will do. From what I have seen of the report, children who have a balanced meal do better. By implementing this policy we ensure all children have that chance. I’m all for freedom when it comes to adults, but with children there is always a balance to be struck between what is right for them, and their parents wishes. The alternative is to enforce minimum packed lunch standards which has been tried and failed at my daughters school.

    If we focus on the child outcome rather than the parental benefit this is a good thing. My friends who are teachers tell me that if the child does not prosper in the first few years they rarely catch up.

    Whilst you are correct that no child should have that stigma (and I did for a period 30 plus years ago) but to be honest that does not seem to be the primary aim here. My middle child’s school have started to move to electronic payment cards which are topped up automatically for those qualifying for free school meals which should remove the obvious differences between those who pay and those who do not.

    I think you also need to remember there are a large amount of people above the level that qualify for free school meals who are by no means affluent and are probably not really what most would consider middle earners.

  • @Amalric
    I think you will find that schools are quite proactive in trying to find out who qualifies for free school meals, as there is additional funding in it for them. However, as I said it still requires a parent to come forward and declare their earnings etc. etc. which, as other have pointed out, many are reluctant to do for whatever reason.
    And yes in some schools where parents socialise, they do gain a good idea of relative incomes and who is having problems etc. and hence are able to pass comment to teachers, but I would be reluctant to regard this as typical.

    I think there is no real question that children do better when they are not hungry. The challenge we have is that because of the withdrawal of school meals years back many schools don’t have kitchens etc. hence I see an effect of this policy is to enable such facilities to be recreated, either as physical on-site kitchens or through third-party providers. Once we have recreated the market and the ethos around school dinners, I can see adjustments being made to the funding formula.

    I think we are also underplaying the real benefits of having good school meals and treating this time and experience as being part of the national curriculum. Looking at it in this way, it would be interesting to see how much money is given over to PE say.

  • Please don’t get me wrong.

    Please let me explain myself

    I am coming round to the arguments that some people are making and the possible benefits of this policy, However, I do still think this money could have been better used and targeted elsewhere.

    But I wanted to put that issue to the side for one moment and say…..

    Some of the arguments people have been making, like Shirley Williams and Nick Clegg.
    They have said how some families do not take up free school meals even though they may be entitled, because of the stigma that is attached to it.
    I found this completely Ironic. Considering the welfare reforms that have been implemented , because of the constant vilification and stigmatization that has been directed at those on welfare, and yes this has come from people within government and constantly supported by the Right Wing Media.
    It is those that have contributed towards the stigma and the segregating of society.

    If this is of a concern to the government and the Liberal Democrats especially, then they should be tackling this head on and removing the stigma.
    I don’t think that is going to happen, as that does not fit into the Tory Ideology of this current coalition.

  • Jayne Mansfield 20th Sep '13 - 3:42pm


    Matt, if you can think of ways to stop this government and newspapers like the Daily Mail from spouting their vile propaganda against the most vulnerable in society, please let me know. It is angering me to the point that I feel that I must take more interest in politics and become politically involved.

    @ Almaric,
    People don’t apply for benefits because in the current climate they don’t want to be classed as ‘skivers ‘as opposed to ‘hard working families who want to do the right thing’.

    In my opinion, it would be inappropriate for schools to take an intrusive approach, these people have their pride. They should be allowed d to keep their dignity, and whist they are living in a society with such poisonous attitudes, other means need to be found to protect children.

    It has to be said, that there are also parents who have enough money to feed their children nutritious meals , but who for various reasons do not so.

    I recognise that Liberals oppose state paternalism, but that is the reality and sometimes the state has to step in. I don’t agree with most universal policies. . I would be happy to relinquish my unused bus pass, but an assurance that every child has at least one hot meal a day is something that I believe is worth making an exception for. I am more than happy for my taxes to fund. to fund such a policy

    It is the married tax allowance that I am opposed to. I am sorry that it was agreed in the coalition agreement.

  • If the evidence does support this claim that the children who get to eat a proper meal learn better. Would it not then be more sensible to have school start half an hour earlier to ensure that all Children receive a proper breakfast?

    I am sure there are plenty of children who go to school without a proper breakfast and some who go without one at all.

    If I remember rightly, most school timetables are split in to 6 lessons.

    2 lessons in the morning before break, 2 more lessons, 1 Hour Dinner Break, then 2 more lessons in the afternoon.

    So if the evidence is to be believed as being true and Children do better after sitting down to a proper meal. The current policy would assume they only perform better for the last 2 lessons of the day.

    Surely it would be more sensible for a breakfast club of sorts, where children are well nourished before the start of school lessons and can get the most out of the first 4 lessons?

  • Shirley Campbell 20th Sep '13 - 5:31pm

    If I read the term “poor” or “working class” once more on “LibDem” posts, I shall SCREAM. Enough said!

  • @Shirley Campbell 20th Sep ’13 – 5:31pm

    “If I read the term “poor” or “working class” once more on “LibDem” posts, I shall SCREAM. Enough said!”

    Confused at that outburst, would you care to explain?

  • @Matt re: School breakfasts – I’ll support you in this!

    However, I can see the opposition being significantly greater than that being seen around school lunches, much probably being focus on the extended school hours.

    Looking at the experience of the private sector, breakfast clubs seem to work well (ie. get used by more than just a few children) where the parents can also sit down. I think a key precursor is schools having the catering facilities available and then being given some incentive to provide service, eg. free/subsidised breakfasts for children who’s parents receive child benefit (perhaps the seed funding can come from a further reduction in child benefit).

    Perhaps it is time to review what services, outside of the national curriculum, schools deliver and the role they play in looking after and developing our (ie societies) children.

  • Jayne Mansfield 20th Sep '13 - 8:57pm

    @ Matt,

    There is a lot to be said for that.

    It is my understanding that children in Wales who are entitled to free school meals also receive breakfast.

    Unfortunately, many school breakfast clubs are closing because there is no longer local authority funding. This is happening against a background when last year the National Association of Head teachers, The Royal College of Gps and the Royal College of Paediatricians argued for children who receive free school meals to be entitled to free breakfasts too. This limited proposal for the extension of free breakfasts for the 1.3 million children who are are already in receipt of free lunches was that was not taken up by ministers.

    In a country where some teachers have argued that a quarter of their pupils come to school hungry and some have had to buy food for children, I back the Clegg policy because we know it will be implemented and the timeline.


  • Jayne Mansfield 20th Sep '13 - 8:59pm

    Sorry for some of the jumbled posts. I am not as good at multi-tasking as I would like to think.

  • I agree with matt that there is stigmatisation of people on benefits and that the government should do something about it, like ensuring no minister vilifies those on benefit and withdrawing the whip from MPs who do it. However I don’t believe there is any stigmatisation of those receiving tax credits and the government often runs campaigns to get people to apply. Therefore using the poor take up of benefits as an excuse does not really justify giving these free meals to the children of those not on benefit. More should be done to ensure people claim the benefits they are entitled to (maybe changing the language and saying that in a civilised society everyone has the right to claim their benefits without having any extra responsibilities put on them).

    (The latest figures [2009-10] I could find were 620,000 people failing to claim income support and the new allowance for the long term sick and disabled [employment and support allowance] and 610,000 people failing to claim Jobseekers Allowance. Take-up for the first group might be around 10% better for those people with families. Of this group couples only made up 17% of those who don’t take-up these benefits. Only about 10% of the Jobseeker Allowance non-claimers have children, take-up is higher for those with children. Therefore in 2009-10 the number of families who were not claiming these benefits might have been about 166,000 however some of these families do claim other benefits.)

    Matt also makes a good point about the school split and having a good breakfast is more important than having a good lunch. Therefore we could look at the government giving schools the funds to give every 5 to 7 year old a free breakfast.

    As Jayne Mansfield points out liberals are reluctant to interfere with parental freedoms, but as I keep saying the party conference has not even considered the arguments for or against free school meals.

  • Helen Dudden 21st Sep '13 - 10:02pm

    One problem with healthy school meals, was the removal of the school kitchen.

    I remember the cabbage, and the shepherds pie. Actually, they were quite healthy meals and I go back a few years. We even had puddings, with custard.

    These were replaced with chips, we had those but not every day.

    It seems reading the comments we are talking about social standing. Working class, I would consider all working to be just that. Poor, how do you describe a poor person? A wealthy person could be poor in the quality of their lives.

    I could add, we talk about poor health.

  • Pay off the Trillion pound national debt first before wasting money we don’t have on any more freebies. Stop increasing dependency on the state.

  • Helen Dudden 30th Sep '13 - 8:29am

    This Government has wasted billions of pounds, and given money to countries that have stated, they no longer need supporting.

    It should start at the top, expenses, we could go on adding things.

    As I said once before, the money that this Government is spending is tax payers, and the problems with the housing market add to housing benefit. We need social housing, not affordable housing, that is not affordable.

    Selling of council owned homes, that should have been spent on further homes, but, then there should be some incentive to buying homes in the private sector.

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