Ballymun schools did not apply to Hot Meals Programme – says DSP

by Rose Barrett
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Rose Barrett  

The Department of Social Protection (DSP) has hit back at criticism by Dublin City Councillor Noeleen Reilly (Ind) that no schools in the Ballymun area were included in the hot meals programme this year or next.

A spokesperson for the DSP stated that application to, and participation in the scheme is entirely voluntary – with the onus on the individual eligible schools to apply – but no Ballymun schools applied!   “Invitations for expressions of interest were issued to 705 primary schools (612 DEIS and 93 non-DEIS) in November 2020. Some 28 schools in Dublin 9 and Dublin 11 areas were invited to submit an expression of interest to participate in the hot school meals scheme.

“However, there were no expressions of interest received from the schools in Ballymun.”   Cllr Reilly had previously stated: “According to the National Deprivation Index, Ballymun is one of the most deprived areas in the state. All the schools are considered DEIS (Delivering Equality of opportunity in Schools) schools – yet not one  has been included in this year’s Hot Meal Programme or next year either.”   Cllr Reilly added she was very conscious that food poverty is a huge issue in Ballymun. “If it weren’t for the school meals programme, then many children would go without food throughout the day, and many of the same children rarely receive a hot meal. I believe the role out of the hot meal programme has seen huge benefits for some children in terms of their performance and wellbeing in schools particularly at this time of the year when it is so cold.”  

However, the DSP was adamant that none of the relevant schools in D 9 and D11 applied. “As part of Budget 2019, funding of €3.5m was provided for a pilot scheme to provide hot school meals in primary schools a for the 2019/2020 academic year.  The pilot involved 37 schools benefitting 6,744 students and was aimed primarily at schools  with no onsite cooking facilities.    “Budget 2021 provided an additional €5.5m to extend the provision of hot school meals to an additional 35,000 primary school children who had been receiving the cold lunch option.”  

Some 1,506 schools and organisations have participated, benefitting 230,000 children to date. The objective of the programme is to provide regular, nutritious food to children who do not have good quality food during the day, to take full advantage of the education provided to them.    “The programme is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and extra educational achievement with a budget of €65.1m provided for the scheme in 2021,” noted the PSP.   Cllr Reilly concluded: “The Department of Social Protection need to liaise with schools in Ballymun and provide them with whatever support is needed to get them on the programme, as it would provide huge benefits to those children who need it most.”  

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