Sharon Hodgson MP has written to the Chancellor George Osborne following a number of constituents' concerns over rumoured cuts to universal infant free school meals (UIFSM) in the Autumn Spending Review.
Sharon Hodgson MP (right) pictured here with fellow APPG School Food member and Vice-Chair Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, and Carrieanne Bishop, former Chair of LACA (left), supporting National School Meals Week "the great free school lunch - eating better together campaign" in Parliament in 2013. Image copyright NSMW/LACA 2013.
N.B. - Sign the petition here: There is currently a UK Government and Parliament Petition to Keep Universal Infant Free School Meals in schools in England, calling on the government to back UIFSM and not scrap it.
Here is the content of Sharon's letters here:
Thank you for your e-mail regarding the Government’s rumoured decision to cut universal infant free school meals (UIFSM) in the Autumn Spending Review.
As you may be aware, I have campaigned extensively on the issue of increasing access to free school meals throughout my time as a Member of Parliament.
The benefits that a hot and healthy school meal can have on a child’s attainment levels at school and, in the long-term, their health have been proven, and are particularly pronounced for those children from less affluent backgrounds.
I am therefore well aware of the benefits and how important it is to maintain the current universal free school meals programme for 5–7 year-olds, which will have an impact on their future development. I would also like to see the scheme extended to other year groups when funding can be found to do so.
This programme followed the recommendation in the Government’s School Food Plan that all primary-school pupils should receive free school meals.
Through my role as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for School Food, I worked closely with John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby, the authors of the School Food Plan, in making the case for this expansion, as well as their other recommendations, such as ensuring all schools meet minimum nutritional standards and putting food and practical cookery back on the curriculum.
Alongside our work to promote free hot and healthy school meals in schools and developing a cohesive whole-school approach to food, the APPG is also working with an expert group on how best we tackle the issue of child holiday hunger, especially for those children who rely on their free school meals as the only source of nutritional food during term-time.
Labour understands the importance of giving children the best start in life, and it was the campaign which I helped run which saw a number of pilot schemes set up to increase access, including the Universal Free School Meals pilot in Durham, under the then Labour Children’s Secretary Ed Balls.
That is why we have made clear that we oppose any cut to this programme. Though the reports in the media are extremely worrying for the future of this important initiative, these are still unconfirmed rumours, and we will have to await the outcome of the Spending Review when the Chancellor presents it before the House of Commons.
In the meantime, as requested, I have written to George Osborne asking for his reassurance that this initiative will be protected in the upcoming Spending Review.
Thank you again for your email.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me again with any further questions or concerns you may have on this matter.
Sharon's letter to the Chancellor:
Rt Hon George Osborne MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
and First Secretary of State
1 Horse Guards Road
London, SW1A 2HQ
Dear George Osborne,
I write to you on behalf of numerous constituents who have written to me regarding the rumours that the universal infant free school meals programme, introduced under the previous Coalition Government, is to be cut in the forthcoming Autumn Spending Review.
As made clear in the Government’s School Food Plan in June 2013, the benefits of introducing universal free school meals has many positive benefits to a child’s attainment and behaviour at school, and in the long-term, can benefit their health also. That is why it was welcome to see the Government roll-out universal free school meals for infant children from September 2014. However, just over a year after the policy was introduced there are now concerns that the funding for this scheme will be cut in the upcoming spending review.
Both myself and my constituents are very concerned that this will have detrimental effects on the attainment and life chances of children, especially those who rely on this hot and healthy free meal as the only nutritional meal they may receive in the entire day.
Therefore, we would be grateful if you can reassure us that this scheme will not be scrapped in the Autumn Spending Review.
Thank you for your help in this matter.
Please send your response to my Parliamentary office.
Mrs Sharon Hodgson MP
Labour Member of Parliament for Washington & Sunderland West
National School Meals Week website: http://www.thegreatschoollunch.co.uk
Sign the petition here:
UK Government and Parliament Petition to Keep Universal Infant Free School Meals in schools in England, calling on the government to back UIFSM and not scrap it.
Page last updated 22/09/2015