UNISON Northern Ireland

Free School Meals Campaign - UNISON raises issues with Office of the Children’s Commissioner.

UNISON along with other unions have met with officials representing the Children’s commissioner Koulla Yiasouma.

At the meeting UNISON highlighted our concerns at the gaps in the current provision of school meals across the education sector. The Catering services across schools are provided by the Education Authority.  

Whilst there has been an official return to "normal service" in Schools, it appears Principals have taken decisions to reduce the quality and quantity of school meals in their schools using covid-19 restrictions as the reason.
There are logistical issues in some settings but not in all.  These can be resolved with support from the department of Education.

The delegation reminded the officials of the statutory obligation on the DOE and school authorities to ensure children and young people have a hot nutritional meal at least once a day. Continuing use of a packed lunch should not be seen as a suitable alternative.

We stressed the importance of all children and young people having access to school meals without any stigma or segregation of those children currently entitled to free school meals.  We want all schools now to ensure meals are available to ALL pupils. The UNISON Free School Meals 4 All campaign is to secure the subsidy is to be extended to cover all children.

At a time of a health pandemic when many families may and will have reduced income this demand becomes even more important. The officials agreed to write to the department of Education seeking engagement on these issues and to keep trade unions informed of developments.