Hartlepool welcomes £600m scheme for free school meals

Chris Simmons
Chris Simmons

PLANS to give every child in English infant schools a free meal have been welcomed by council leaders in Hartlepool.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg made the £600m scheme, which will save parents about £437 a year for each child when it comes in next September, the key announcement of the Liberal Democrats’ conference in Glasgow.

The free school meals plan will ensure a hot lunch is available to all children in reception, Year 1 and Year 2 pupils aged between five and seven, and follows a study produced for the Department for Education which showed the move produced considerable benefits.

Labour councillor Chris Simmons, chairman of Hartlepool Borough Council’s children’s services committee, said the local authority is still waiting to find out the exact details of how the scheme will work but has welcomed the move.

Coun Simmons said: “Any move that introduces children to school meals, which offer a balanced and varied diet, has got to be welcomed.

“This will alleviate some of the pressures on hard-pressed families during these difficult economic times. But it may also offer a new way for us to start looking at school meals.

“If children get into the habit of eating a school meal rather than going to the fish and chip and kebab shops at lunchtime then that is a good habit for them to get into.”

Parents who are currently in receipt of benefits already qualify from free school meals and Coun Simmons urged more to sign up.

To check whether they qualify for a free school meal entitlement people can call the council’s benefits team on (01429) 284188 or email benefits@hartlepool.gov.uk