Free school dinners for all – what a tragic waste of money

Apparently the new legislation to give all reception, year one and two children a free school lunch will save parents around £2.30 a day. That’s not to be sniffed at – I can use it for weekend treats, days out, or, if I was being sensible put it in his savings account.

Of course I won’t – I won’t really notice it because my son, when he goes to school next year won’t need free school dinners. I’m not rich, far from it, but we do ok and because of that we don’t get benefits. So in my view we shouldn’t get free school meals.

Not because of the Daily Mail mentality of not wanting to be seen as scumbag benefit families clogging up our system. I don’t subscribe to that. But because I know there are children and families who really need it. That I live in a society where we all contribute to the greater good – maybe a simplistic view, it maybe idealistic but it’s the essence of the welfare state.

That if I fall down on my luck, the welfare system will give me breathing space and time to sort myself out.

As well as this £2.30 a day it will cost £150m to get schools  ready and make the necessary changes to their kitchens. Dear god, how many lives could be transfromed with that cash. I object to the policy for reasons of common sense. If parents can’t afford new school uniform or the cost of a school trip precludes some children from going then this hair brain, crowd-pleasing scheme that excludes on the basis of age is heart-breakingly misplaced.

I can choose what to give my son for lunch. I can buy a weekly shop without the fear of paying for it, (unless it’s Waitrose and massive!). I am not rich but I am not in need so for god’s sake use the money where it’s needed. Give parents who need it peace of mind and the rest of us the respect to know we’ll feed our children well enough to get through the school day.

The bedroom tax has hit a minority but had huge impacts, today millions of people, including working families use food banks. This needs addressing. Target welfare, don’t blanket bomb it. The concept and, in turn argument of universalism is useless in this case when we’re choosing to ignore pockets of real need.

Let’s not lose track of the true meaning of a welfare state – it is not for universal benefits. It’s simple, use the money for people who need it, whose lives are difficult, miserable and financially unstable. Don’t placate the DM readers by giving middle class benefits when this money could change lives not just save us a few bob during the week.

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