SOUTH Down SF Assembly candidate Naomi Bailie has commended her party colleague, Education Minister Caitríona Ruane, for extending the free school meal’s program. Ms Bailie was speaking after an announcement that the scheme is to be extended to include an estimated 10,000 extra nursery and primary school children over a four year period.
Ms Bailie said, “Minister Ruane announced last April that the eligibility criteria for the free schools meals program would be extended to include full-time nursery and primary school children whose parents are in receipt of working tax credit and have an annual income which does not exceed £16,190.
“Obviously there have been concerns about how the cuts agenda of the British Government could affect this program.
“I therefore commend the Minister’s confirmation that it was still her intention to extend this scheme as planned. I also welcome the news that the Department of Education has extended its budget plans for the next four years in order to make additional funding available to enable the extension be rolled out from September 2011. This will see an additional 10,000 children benefit from the free school meal’s scheme.
“Minister Ruane is to be praised for her commitment to this scheme and I welcome the fact that not only will these children benefit from free school meals, but also other benefits including school uniform grants. I would therefore encourage all lower income families to claim their full entitlement in this regard”.