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Matthews Secures Extension of School Meals Programme to 12 additional Wicklow DEIS SCHOOLS

Deputy Matthews, Green Party TD for Wicklow, has welcomed the announcement that the School Meals Programme will be extended to an additional 60,000 children nationally in schools awarded DEIS status in March of this year. This includes 12 Wicklow based schools. This is a matter raised by Deputy Matthews on a series of occasions in Dáil Éireann including with the Taoiseach directly. As part of a €67 million package to assist parents and students, there will also be a €100 increase in the Back-to-School Allowance and school transport fees will be waived for both primary and secondary school pupils. Speaking following the publication of the measures, Deputy Matthews said:

“I am delighted to see that the School Meals Programme has been extended to the 60,000 children in schools that have recently been designated as DEIS. This resolves an issue whereby schools that had been enrolled in the DEIS programme for the first time earlier this year were informed that they would not be eligible to receive free school meals. I was first made aware of the anomaly by a local school principal, who was understandably frustrated to be cut off from this service.

“Since then, I have engaged with the Taoiseach, the Minister for Social Protection, and the Minister for Education to advocate for emergency funding to provide free meals to children in the schools affected. As I stated in the Dáil last week, the Schools Meal Programme is of vital importance to children. Recent statistics published by Aldi and Barnardos show that 51% of parents have in the past cut back spending in areas such as gas and electricity, transport and medical bills to afford food. We know that many children go to school hungry and live in poverty and deprivation. The provision of school meals is a very small intervention to tackle educational disadvantage and assist those children to achieve their full potential.

“I welcome the decision to include all children in DEIS schools in the School Meals Programme. It was announced alongside other measures to address the cost-of-living crisis, including a significant increase in the rate of the Back-to-School Allowance and the waiving of school transport fees. I am also delighted to see progress in the expansion of the Hot School Meals initiative, which was promised in the Programme for Government. As we prepare for Budget 2023, the Green Party is committed to ensuring that no child is left behind in our education system”, Deputy Matthews concluded.

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