Lib Dems: May is snatching lunches from 4,504 children living in poverty in Rochdale

May 31, 2017 2:46 PM

Over four and half thousand children living in poverty across Rochdale will have their lunches taken away under Theresa May's plans to abolish universal free school lunches for infants, Liberal Democrat research has revealed. In total, 4,504 children in Rochdale are set to lose out under the plans.

Those families losing out are expected to have to pay around £440 per child per year for their school lunches.

The Liberal Democrats have also calculated that under Conservative costings of just under 7p per child's breakfast, each child could expect to receive either half a boiled egg, one slice of bread with 12 baked beans or 37.5 cornflakes and 100ml of semi-skimmed milk.

Commenting on the figures, Councillor Andy Kelly, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Rochdale said: "Theresa May's cruel policy will mean hundreds of children living in poverty in Rochdale will lose out on free school lunches. Free school dinners, introduced by the Liberal Democrats in Government have proved extremely popular. Axing them will hit places like Rochdale worse than most. The amount of children suffering from poverty in Rochdale is one of the highest in Britain.

"This will mean greater inequality and struggling families having to pay hundreds of pounds on lunches a year. Many children could lose out on lunches altogether and it is totally unacceptable.

"The Conservatives' promise of a free breakfast is cynical and clearly not designed to reach all children. They have set aside a meagre 7p per breakfast per child, the price of half a boiled egg or just one slice of bread with 12 baked beans.

"The Liberal Democrats will stand up against this mean-spirited vision of Britain and extend free school lunches to all primary school children."

250,000 children in poverty to lose out on free school lunches

During the Coalition, the Liberal Democrats introduced universal infant free school meals for all pupils in reception, year one and year two. Prior to that, when free lunches were means-tested, the Children's Society estimated that half of all school aged children living in poverty - 1.2 million - were not accessing free school meals (link). This was the result of a combination of an eligibility criteria that punished low-income, working families and the stigma associated with claiming them. Based on these Children Society estimates we have calculated that 250,000 children living in poverty will no longer claim a free, hot lunch at school.

In total, more than 1.7 million children will lose out on a free lunch under the Conservatives' plans.

Many working families will have to pay around £440 per child per year (£2.30 per meal) for their school lunches, a substantial expense. A single parent earning the minimum wage (£7.50 per hour) and working 16 hours per week (earning £6,240 per year) will therefore have to pay approximately 7% of their annual income for each child's school lunches. A parent with 2 children aged 5-7 faces a bill of nearly £1,000.

Income amongst families of the 700,000 children living in poverty, but not eligible for free school meals, is less than £10 per head per day (after rent has been paid). Making these families pay for school lunches will take up a substantial portion of this income.

What a Conservative 7p breakfast could buy

The Conservatives claim that they will be able to provide free school breakfasts for all primary pupils at a cost of £60m per year. If the UK's 4.62 million children in state-funded primary schools were fed a free breakfast for the 190 days of the school year, each breakfast would cost just 6.8p.

This means that a child for 7p would receive around:
• Just under half a boiled egg
• One slice of bread with a small amount of margarine
• One slice of bread with 12 baked beans
• 37.5 cornflakes and 100ml semi skimmed milk

Pricing based on
• 1 medium free range egg currently 15p at Tesco (box of 12)
• Kellogg's cornflakes costed at 15 flakes per penny (based on a 450g box)
• Bread costed at roughly 5p per slice (Currently selling at 13p per 100g, and one slice weighing roughly 38g)
• Heinz Baked Beans costed at 6 beans per penny (based on a standard 415g tin)
• 10g of margarine costed at 2p (based on a cost of £2.00 per kg)
• 4.4p for 100ml of semi skimmed milk (based on a cost of 44p per litre for 4 pints)

Aisling Kirwan, founder of the Grub Club, claims that a nutritious breakfast costs at least 25p per pupil on average, though this only provides porridge with milk. A more filling portion costs 85p. Even if only 20% of primary school children took up free breakfasts, the cost of provision would be £174 million, once costs such as the increase in staffing required to extend the school day is taken into account. A breakfast delivered to every primary school child would cost £800 million