THE UK Government’s u-turn on free school meals for children in England has been welcomed by Vale of Glamorgan MP Alun Cairns – and may lead to an expanded package for Wales too.

Mr Cairns, who was secretary of state for Wales, voted against the motion to offer free school meals provision for the poorer children during holidays while the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing.

The decision did not affect Wales as the Welsh Government had already announced they would be providing free school meals to eligible children during holidays up until the Easter period. Mr Cairns said that funds will be available for a similar package to be introduced in Wales should the First Minister wish.

In the u-turn, the UK Government announced that there will be more than £400m spent to support poor children and their families in England as part of a winter grant scheme. It will provide support with food and bills and an expanded holiday food and activities programme.


£170m will be made available and distributed through councils, with at least 80 per cent of it to be earmarked to help with food and bills. The funding will last between December and the end of March.

£220m will be invested to cover the Easter, summer and Christmas periods in 2021 as part of the holiday food and activities programme and there will be a £16m fund available for the nation’s food banks.

He said: “In my earlier responses on the matter of free school meals, I highlighted that I had been in discussions with ministers to seek sustainable, long term solutions to the challenges and I am pleased that the Prime Minister has responded with the covid winter grant scheme.

“The package has been announced by the Prime Minister to support child poverty and to help fill the education gap that has arisen because of Covid. This will support children, families and the most vulnerable in communities and is a policy that Marcus Rashford has welcomed warmly.

“It goes further than the Welsh Government’s current scheme and more money has been made available to the First Minister to follow suit.”