Increases in school meals unfair to rural families
Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Children and Young, Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Thomas O'Reilly has hit out at yet another increase in the cost of school meals due to take effect in September 2004.
Mr O'Reilly said:
"The Department of Education is instructing all education library boards to recoup the increased staff costs resulting from job evaluation agreements that increased the cost of the school meals service by £0.9 million annually. This will mean that boards will have to increase prices by 8% each year.
"Within the Western Education Library Board the 2003/04 school meal price rose by 12% and this is now being followed by another 6 % or 10 pence increase.
"This increase may sound small but the reality is that it will put families under greater pressure to find the extra money for school meals.
"It is wrong that children and their families should be forced to fund increased staff costs. The department should be prepared to invest adequately in the school meals scheme. Research consistently shows that school meals are a vital nutritional source for children from low-income families. In some cases this will mean that families have to make a choice between money spent on school meals and money spent on paying bills.
"I have asked the WELB to make a case to the department for children from rural areas who have a much longer day because of longer travelling times.
Low cost meals are an essential part of school provision to enable them to get the most from their school day. Many schools today provide breakfast as well as lunch this means that for a family with three children at secondary school that the cost could be £40 to £50 per week." ENDS