UNISON Northern Ireland


Today (11th March 2024), UNISON, the largest union in Northern Ireland representing thousands of education support services workers, will hold a seminar at Parliament Buildings, Stormont (5pm), as part of the union’s ongoing campaign calling for the introduction of universal free school meals in Northern Ireland. The event is sponsored by Nick Mathison MLA, Chairperson of the Assembly Education Committee. It is co-sponsored by Pat Sheehan MLA, Deputy Chairperson of the Education Committee, and Committee members Cara Hunter MLA and Robbie Butler MLA.

Commenting in advance of this evening’s event, UNISON Regional Secretary Patricia McKeown said:

‘‘Today’s seminar is an important opportunity for UNISON to bring the campaign for universal, nutritious, free school meals directly to MLAs. With a new Executive in place and the Assembly back up and running, UNISON wants to see all the parties come together to support and progress important policies like the introduction of universal free school meals. We know this would make a huge difference for workers, children and families.

England, Scotland and Wales all have policies to offer various forms of universal provision of school meals, but Northern Ireland does not currently use such an approach. UNISON believes that a universal approach would assist in addressing child poverty and would have positive impacts for child health and development.

The Department for Education has been carrying out a review of school meals eligibility criteria, including options for universal school meals provision. We are calling on the new Education Minister to give this review early consideration and move to begin the necessary public consultation required.

A commitment to introduce universal, nutritious, free school meals provision should be a core part of the new Executive’s programme for government. At today’s event, we will be calling on all MLAs to support the UNISON campaign and work to make universal free school meals a reality.’’