Thousands of children are at risk of going hungry over the summer because of the Welsh government’s decision to end free school meals support during the holidays, a trade union warns.

School support staff and public services union UNISON Cymru Wales has labelled the decision as the “wrong choice” when so many are trapped by low wages and high prices and has called on Welsh ministers to think again.

Jan Tomlinson, UNISON Cymru Wales convenor said,

“So many families are struggling financially and have absolutely nothing left. That includes many low paid, mainly female, public service workers.

“Not being able to pay the bills is horribly stressful and now they’ll now be worrying their children will have empty tummies over the summer.

“Welsh government has made the wrong choice. Working families are already using food banks in record numbers and we’ve seen an increase in diseases we thought we’d got rid of in civilised society, because people can’t afford to eat properly.

“We understand the Conservative UK government has deprived Welsh government and councils of the money they need for vital local services that tackle poverty, but every politician has a moral duty to intervene and ensure children don’t go hungry.”

Emma Garson, whose UNISON Cardiff County branch represents thousands school support staff, said,

“Free school meals for all during term time is an excellent initiative, but children don’t just go hungry in the school year.

“Withdrawing free meals support this summer means children could face six weeks without regular hot meals. That is shameful.

“Making the announcement towards the end of the school term would have shocked parents expecting it to continue and they are unlikely to have budgeted for the cost of extra meals at what is already a more expensive time for families.”

UNISON understands some local authorities are actively looking to continue to provide free school meals during the summer out of their own budgets, but the union argues this needs to be right across Wales and should be funded by Welsh government.