1 Jun 2020

ICTU Welfare Protest Stormont 25 June 2012 Trade union and community activists lobby MLAs at Stormont to oppose Welfare 'reform', Monday 25th June 2012

Denise Walker, the chair of the Education Trade Union Group, representing unions with members working at all levels of education, has called on the NI Executive to ensure the continuance over the summer of the successful emergency measure to provide payments to  almost 97,000 children entitled to free school meals who are receiving payments of £27 every fortnight per child instead.

Ms Walker said: “the trade unions in the NIC-ICTU Education Group represent workers across our entire education system, and appreciate the importance of nutrition to any learning situation, be it at school or at home.

“Free School Meals both respond to social need and act as a measurement of social class inside the education system, and FSM statistics reveal the inherent and reversible inequalities operating in what we could call ‘normal’ circumstances, let alone a global pandemic.

“It is harder to prove, but is statistically likely, that the parents of children on FSM are dependent on benefits, often as a supplement to low-paid and precarious work. We also know by this stage of this pandemic that the workers most at risk of catching Coronavirus are low-paid and precarious workers.

“We have seen the link between children going hungry and the degradation of the value of benefits in recent years, evidenced most starkly by the rise of the Food Bank as the symbol and legacy of welfare ‘reform’ as devised by Iain Duncan Smith. We are living with the nutritional result of a Tory revision of a welfare system which used to support the vulnerable and now punishes the poor.

“We have a moral and social duty to ensure that children are not the collateral casualties of this confluence of circumstances. We call on the Ministers for Education, for Communities and for Finance to work together and find a solution to the real likelihood of the children of the working poor, and those who cannot find work, facing hunger over the summer.”