SDLP Education Spokesperson Daniel McCrossan MLA has called on the Education Minister Michelle McIlveen to reactivate the Free School Meals Payment Scheme to facilitate additional support for households struggling to heat their homes and feed their families as the cost of living crisis intensifies.
The West Tyrone MLA said that using this scheme would allow Ministers to target support at families with children that may be struggling to make ends meet, similar to the Scottish Government’s Child Payment Scheme.
Daniel McCrossan MLA said:
“The huge increases in food, fuel and energy bills affecting people across the North will have the biggest impact on children in families already struggling to make ends meet. I am seriously concerned about how this crisis will affect the health, educational and social outcomes of these children. We cannot stand by as parents are forced to make agonising choices between heating their homes and feeding their families.
“That is why I am calling on the Education Minister to reactivate the Free School Meals Payment Scheme that was used to channel support to these families during the Covid-19 lockdown. We have a mechanism that can identify those most in need and get urgent resource to them to ensure that children are not pushed further into poverty in the weeks ahead.
“The SDLP is also asking the Minister to extend the scheme to more families on middle and low incomes who are struggling right now. The Scottish Government has already taken action to support children in these circumstances. We need act and act quickly before children in our communities have their life chances impacted by this crisis.”