Would free school meals for all pupils remove the stigma?

A group of councillors in Wales have stated that the stigma around free school meals could be removed entirely if they were made available for everybody, according to the BBC

Councillors in Wales have stated that, if school meals were provided for free for all pupils, the stigma surrounding them would be removed.

The Welsh government believes that all councils within the country could provide free meals to all pupils if they made room in their budgets.

Currently, children who don’t qualify for free school meals are racking up debts across the country. Anglesey’s audit committee has said that it will help local authorities who are struggling to chase parents over those debts.

Some schools are still operating a manual paper payment system and some are using a cashless system, which makes it simpler to see who has paid and who hasn’t.

Councillor Bob Llewellyn Jones said a revamp of the system could help.

“Over the years, this council has written to the assembly requesting free school meals for all Welsh pupils,” he told the committee Local Democracy Reporting Service.

“I think, like free subscriptions, it would be beneficial for the children as the stigma can be there forever when other kids know who receives the free school meals.”

One in six Welsh pupils – just over 76,000 – is eligible for free school meals, currently.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “We want to use public money as effectively as possible, and ensure that those who are most in need are supported.

“Extending eligibility for free school meals to include all children – not just those from the lowest income families – would need greater financial investment.

“This would mean savings would then have to be made elsewhere.”

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