Free school breakfasts scheme an uncosted blow to schools, families and children

The Lib Dems have warned that Tory plans to scrap free school lunches, in favour of free breakfasts, is an uncosted scheme that will put pressure on barely managing families and schools, as well as contributing to the issue of childhood obesity.

The Conservative manifesto pledges to scrap universal free school lunches for primary school pupils under seven, one of the policies the Lib Dems authored during their time in the coalition, and replace it with a scheme to provide free school breakfasts for all primary school children. Universal Free School Meals cost an estimated £600 million a year. The Tory manifesto has pledged just £60 million a year for their breakfast scheme, saying the difference will help fund school budgets.

However, the Conservatives have set aside just 6.8p per pupil for its manifesto pledge to give all primary school pupils free breakfasts, in what food experts have labelled a “black hole” in the government’s manifesto calculations.

Aisling Kirwan, the founding director of the Grub Club, a school-based social enterprise that provides cooking lessons for pupils in poorer areas, said that a nutritious meal costs 25p  per pupil on average. Even then, this is only a bowl of porridge with milk. A more filling breakfast, which would include bacon, two sausages, one egg and bread, would cost 85p per portion.

“Clearly there’s a huge disparity between the realistic costing and that put forward by the Tories,” she said.

Dr Rebecca Allen, director of think tank Education Datalab, said in SchoolsWeek, that schools were looking at a bill in the region of £400 million once costs of paying a teaching assistant to oversee the breakfast club were included.

Scrapping free school lunches in favour of free breakfasts could also have a significant nutritional cost, Nick Clegg has warned, saying Theresa May should take “her inspiration from Jamie Oliver not Oliver Twist”.

Clegg said scrapping the lunches, which will be replaced by free breakfasts, could mean thousands of pupils no longer receive a single portion of fruit or vegetables on a daily basis.

No nutritional guidelines exist for school breakfasts, though schools are expected to provide two to three of the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day in school lunches.

Judith Bunting said this week that:

“This scheme is an uncosted disaster that will hit children, families and schools hard. At a time of unprecedented school cuts, schools will be expected to fund staff to cover free breakfast clubs. Families who are barely managing with stagnated incomes and rising costs will struggle to fund the extra £440 a year per child for lunches – or send them to school with a less nutritious packed lunch.

Half of low-income pupils go hungry at breakfast, and a further fifth eat breakfasts with little or no nutritional value. Providing them with a bowl of sugary cereal is not going to help this. When we know we have issues in this country with both childhood obesity and food poverty, this scheme is ridiculous.”

Lib Dems will cut youth unemployment

judith bunting  thatcham 099

Above: With Courtney from Thatcham, an apprentice at the Thatcham Automotive Academy, which trains youngsters from across the UK for the motor repair and insurance industries.

The Liberal Democrats aim to see an extra 100,000 young adults into work through on the job training such as an apprenticeship or full-time education. This week, Nick Clegg outlined a plan which focuses on cutting youth unemployment cut to its lowest levels since records began.

This announcement is critical for Newbury and West Berkshire. Our high achievers here do well, and we are rightly proud of what they achieve. The increasing number of NEETS in our area is worrying, however (Youngsters Not in Education, Employment or Training).

If I am elected to Westminster, I am determined to see the number of unemployed youngsters in our area drop.

Liberal Democrats believe in spreading opportunity to everyone, no matter what your background. The opportunity to work and have a fulfilling and rewarding career is crucial to this.

In a future government, Nick will launch a Youth Unemployment Action Plan. He will also set up a new Youth Unemployment Task-force within the first 100 days of government to fast-track getting young adults back into work.

In Government we created two million new jobs and two million more apprenticeships. We have reduced youth unemployment, but it’s still too high and there is much more to do.

I remember hearing Vince Cable talking about the importance of apprenticeships long before we were in government. Now we want to double the number of businesses taking on apprentices, open up work experience opportunities, transform careers advice and, across the UK, invest millions into mental health services.

Youth unemployment was rising long before the financial crash. It increased by a third under Labour. The Conservatives risk making things much harder for young people by stripping them of jobseeker’s allowance and housing benefit. 

Only the Liberal Democrats have a comprehensive plan to tackle the scourge of youth unemployment.

Flying the Flag for Newbury Business

June 9th, 2014

 

Judith Bunting with Vince Cable at the Bloomberg Keynote Speech
Judith Bunting with Business Secretary, Vince Cable at the Bloomberg Keynote Speech

At Nick Clegg’s recent keynote speech in London today Judith Bunting asked what the government could do to further encourage the development of our science, technology and research industries of the M4 Corridor.

“These companies are the future,” Judith Bunting said. “Their research, development and manufacturing provides the precisely the kind of highly skilled work that is underpinning the economic recovery of the country.” She went on, “Should hi tech industry be eligible for the kind of tax-breaks enjoyed by other industries, like film and TV?”

“If I am returned to Westminster, I will pursue the idea of tax breaks for start-ups in the technology industry. Vodafone was once a Newbury start-up as was Quantel. Now they employ thousands of people in our area.  Our hi tech industries and their skilled workers are critical to stimulating economic growth.”

Nick Clegg was glad to acknowledge the importance of the technology industry to the economic recovery of Britain. With reference to the speech made by Judith Bunting at Federal Conference, last year, he emphasised the importance of getting reliable broadband coverage extended to the whole of the UK. In his speech, earlier, Nick said, “If this parliament was about reviving the economy, the next will be about rewiring the economy”.

Nick also celebrated Vince Cable’s work in promoting the teaching of engineering, electrical and technical skills in FE Colleges and the establishment of the Apprenticeship and the Higher Apprenticeship schemes in which companies sponsor students to take technical education to degree level.

Nick Clegg giving Keynote Speech at Bloomberg June 2014
Nick Clegg: Keynote Speech at Bloomberg

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