Free school meals: the verdict

18 September 2013
I cannot say how pleased I was when I heard the announcement from Nick Clegg, that from next September, all infant school children would qualify for free school meals. At last the government is doing something to help families.
Since the coalition came into power it's been take, take, take from families. The real kicker for me has been the loss of child benefit - but child trust funds have gone too and for parents of older children wanting to go to university there's £9,000 a year tuition fees to stress about.
I think back to our pre-child days, when we were living on two good incomes - eating out regularly and enjoying several holidays a year. Had we decided not to have a family we'd have barely been hit by the government's cutbacks. Of course we'd have noticed rising food prices and spiraling energy prices, but we would not have been targeted directly by any specific cuts.
Along with benefit claimants, families seem to be an easy target for money-hunting policy makers and that is not fair. There are many sections of the population who are not being tapped in the same way.
While wealthy parents may not be feeling the pinch, the loss of child benefit is hitting thousands of middle-income families hard. While £60,000 might conjure up images of wealth in some parts of the country, it doesn't stretch so far in more expensive areas where you're lucky to be shelling out less than £1,000 a month on your mortgage.
So while we may not be living hand to mouth, and the cost of school meals isn't such that I would be put off paying for them, I certainly feel helped by this news announcement. Once both my children are at school it will save me almost £80 a month, easing the squeeze a little.
Of course Nick Clegg once claimed to be against tuition fees, so I won't count my savings until my son is tucking into his first free lunch.