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Matthews raises concerns over exclusion of DEIS schools from School Meals Programme

Date: 17 May 2022


Deputy Steven Matthews, Green TD for Wicklow, has criticised the failure to include new DEIS schools in the School Meals Programme for the coming school year. In March, the DEIS Programme was expanded to accommodate additional schools for the 2022/2023 academic year, including 9 primary schools and 3 secondary schools in Wicklow.



One of the main benefits of DEIS is access to the School Meals Programme, which provides regular, nutritious food to children who face socio-economic and educational disadvantage. However, in reply to Deputy Steven Matthews’ Parliamentary Question on the matter, the Department of Social Protection has stated that newly designated DEIS schools will not qualify for the School Meals Programme due to budgetary constraints that won’t be reviewed in time for start of the school year.


Discussing this issue, Deputy Matthews said:


“This issue was first brought to my attention by a local school principal who was understandably frustrated to be cut off from this service. This is a glaring anomaly that creates an unnecessary disparity between schools that had previously been part of the programme and new entrants, despite them meeting the same criteria as per the Department of Education’s assessment.

“The school meals programme falls under the Department of Social Protection and last week, I wrote to Minister Heather Humphreys to raise my concerns. The response was disappointing and stated that any expansion to the School Meals Programme could not be considered until the commencement of the budget process for 2023. This would leave 60,000 children nationally without access to school meals for at least two months at the start of the 2022/2023 academic year.


“As a long-time county councillor and now as a TD, I am deeply familiar with the constraints of budgets, but this is different. In this instance, you are dealing with the wellbeing of children who the Department of Education have already assessed as requiring this support, so to then dismiss it as a budgetary matter is very frustrating. It is incredibly important that our school system is open and welcoming for all students, regardless of background, and that in particular, students at risk of educational disadvantage will be supported to achieve their full potential.


“The DEIS system was established to address specific aspects of educational disadvantage and as per the Government’s own policy, priority access for the school meals programme is given to any school awarded DEIS status. It also goes against a key commitment in the Programme for Government regarding the commitment to expand the School Meals Programme which the Green Party fought hard to have included.


“I have already began working with some Wicklow schools impacted by this issue and I have written to the remaining schools to offer my support. This is not an issue that can be allowed drag on until the budget in October and the funding must be put in place in advance of the schools returning in late August/ early September. I will be working with Minister for Education - Normal Foley and Minister Humphreys to try and address this unnecessary barrier for students and school management alike in entering the School Meals Programme, Deputy Matthews concluded.

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