Upper Bann Sinn Féin Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

O'Dowd welcomes departmental rethink on school meal entitlements

Published: 9 November, 2017

John O' Dowd MLA has welcomed a Department of Education review of a previous decision that, if unchanged, could lead to thousands of children losing free school meal entitlements.

The Departments review came about after Sinn Féin warned that the original process was not compliant with equality regulations.

The Upper Bann MLA commented:

"Over the past number of weeks Sinn Féin have been warning that proposed changes to free school meal eligibility criteria could see 2,000 children lose their entitlement.

"We argued strongly that it was wrong for any child to lose their entitlement because of a technical change rather than an improvement in their circumstances.

"Sinn Féin made a strong submission to the Department in which we pointed out that this was in breach of their own equality duties given the negative impact on so many children.

"The Department has confirmed that it is reviewing how its own equality processes were handled in relation to the original decision.

"I very much welcome that and we will continue to engage with education officials over the coming weeks to press for a solution that ensures no child loses their entitlement."

Concluding Mr O' Dowd said:

" When I was Education Minister I broadened the criteria for entitlement to free school meals which allowed thousands more children to benefit from the service.

"I recognised the connection between a child's ability to learn and good nutrition especially for those from lower income backgrounds. The Department should not do anything to roll back on those changes."