School meals: Welsh government admits failing to follow law

The Welsh government has admitted failing to follow the law when stopping free school meals during the holidays. Two families and a legal charity claimed ministers had not considered the rights of children.

The case concluded without a court hearing after the Welsh government accepted it should have done more to assess the effect of the decision.

But Education Minister Jeremy Miles said the government could not afford to reintroduce the meals. School meals during the holidays began during the pandemic and the policy was repeatedly extended.

Last June, the government wrote to councils saying there would be no further extensions during the 2023 summer holiday. The Public Law Project argued that ministers failed to follow a law passed by the Senedd in 2011, which requires it to show regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The case also claimed they failed to follow part of the 2010 Equality Act by not considering the impact on people with protected characteristics, including disabled people, ethnic minorities and single mothers.

Ministers did acknowledge the impact when they decided not to reintroduce the holiday meals in October 2023.

Public Law Project solicitor Matthew Court said his clients felt the decision taken in June 2023 was “unfair and unlawful”.

“The Welsh ministers have now conceded that they acted unlawfully, and the court has also declared it so,” he said. Mr Miles said that by reaching the settlement the government accepted “further equality assessment work needed to be completed”.

“As the claim related to a procedural issue, the current position has not changed: the provision of free school meals during the holidays ceased in 2023, as funding unfortunately remains unavailable within the current budgetary constraints,” he said. The government will have to pay the claimants’ legal costs.

Source: eNCA

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