In the early 70s, when Margaret Thatcher was at Education, she cut the provision of free school milk for 7-11 year olds. As a result (and because it handily rhymed), the chant “Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher!” became popular. Not popular enough for her to lose the General Election eight years later, but there we are.
In 1980s, the milk for kids over 5 was cut as well, only much less of a fuss was made about it at the time (although it did affect me, as I was 6 at the time, so I remember that the chant was reprised).
During the last Labour government, partly as a result of things like SureStart, there have been more kids under 5 at school and in playschemes, and they are still entitled to free milk. This is funded from Health budgets.
But we are now in the era of cuts, and ideological ones at that. So, even though the Health budget is supposedly ringfenced, the Health Minister Anne Milton had been proposing it.
Make no mistake, this was not just being ‘mooted’, some vague possibility that needed to be looked into. Milton was already at the point of opening discussions with the Scottish Public Health Minister about how it would be done.
But such is the zeal with which the government are taking a knife to budgets, and such is the license that they seem to have, that it appears that Dave didn’t know. It was quite funny to see David Willetts squirming this morning, struggling to defend a proposal and show how all options were under consideration before the news broke in front of him that Cameron had put the mockers on the whole idea.
So, we can at least be glad that these Tories are not quite going to be as ruthless as some of them would like. I’m sure we’ll all be remembering this when other services go – at least Dave didn’t let them cut the kiddies’ free milk.
August 9, 2010 at 14:27
I am curious as to what case can be made in this 21st century for the government to be feeding people’s children?
August 9, 2010 at 21:15
Well, it’s hardly ‘feeding’, it’s a third of a pint of milk, up to five times a week, while they are at school/childcare outside the home.
But there are reasonably sound reasons. Milk is vital for young children to help their bones to grow, and while poverty and food shortages were a much greater problem in the 1940s than today, we know that poor diet is still a problem today.
We pay to educate people’s children. We pay people a bit extra to help the costs of feeding and clothing them. We pay for their healthcare and vaccinations. We do so because it actually makes more sense to provide a basic minimum to all so that no child (who after all, cannot be giving informed consent on such things) has a chance of decent health and of making their way in life, than to leave it to their parents who may well be conscientious, but may also be feckless.
Besides, some kid gets to be milk monitor, which is an important way to build self-esteem and produce the seeds of ambition and lust for power that grow in our future leaders 😉
August 10, 2010 at 10:07
‘Danivon’, I take your point about the milk monitor role – never made it myself, lack of ambition, I suppose.
However, as to the other, may I point out that we are now in the 21st century. I stress this because one of the things that I find pleasurably ironic is the apparent fact that progressive socialists are so old-fashioned, they simply can not, or will not, move out of the 19th century. In the West today we live in a time of unbelievable wealth and plenty in which 99.5% of the population is not poor by any standard although some might be a bit hard up (which is not the same thing). When you are ‘hard up’, as my (single) mum was in the ’40s and ’50s, then you make choices, like foregoing the six pints at the pub and buying your own child two pints of milk!
August 10, 2010 at 19:19
Hmm. At my school, everyone got to take turns being milk monitor. And there was also a straw monitor (which for some reason was a more coveted position). Late 1970s egalitarianism, eh?
Your subsequent ramblings are of interest. You mention the 19th Century, but the whole thing was brought in in the 1940s to solve very real 20th century issues. While we as a society are wealthy, we are not (as you allude) not too wise and not too healthy. Even the wealth isn’t that widely spread, and there are indeed still areas of acute poverty in the UK – particularly in these times of economic hardship and spending cuts.
Just because your mum was sensible, doesn’t mean that every child’s mother is – and it’s not the parents that would suffer from failing to properly feed their kids, is it?
Bah, anyway, if you really want to take the issue up, why are you engaging me? Surely it’s ‘Dave’ who needs to be taken aside and give the hard-right libertarian lectures.
August 10, 2010 at 20:32
I hope I wasn’t lecturing, I only intended to converse.
At the risk of rambling, it seems to me, and some busybody quack from their ‘trade union’ repeated only a couple of days ago,that the main danger to our beloved, not-so-little kiddie-winkies is over-feeding and judging by the size of some of the waddlers I see in my High Street lack of food is not the problem.
So I repeat, why in this day and age of patchy ‘hard-upness’ in a sea of plenty is HMG taking upon itself the job of feeding children?
August 10, 2010 at 21:18
Mr Duff… You must spend too much time reading rubbish newspapers and hyperbolic blogs…
Some kids are obese. Of course, it’s likely that it’s not milk that is the cause, so much as sugary and fatty food that isn’t doing them any good in terms of nutrients. And while some kids are obese, you seem to be oblivious to the fact that not all of them are.
But as to your last question, Ask Dave. He’s just laid down the ringfence around it. He’s the one in charge.
I already answered your question for my part, you just don’t like the answer. *shrug*
August 10, 2010 at 22:08
Oh dear, I see that having a conversation here is likely to be as difficult as it usually is on socialit sites.
I look around me and I seeno malnourished children, only several over-nourishe children. Thus, I return to my original question which you seem reluctant to face: what is the justification in this wealthy era undreamed of even by people in the ’40s and ’50s for governments to feed children?
August 10, 2010 at 22:24
I get the impression that rational discourse can be an issue for you, Mr Duff. I answered your question, you ignored it and ploughed on to ask again. You disagree or can’t grasp what I was talking about. I assumed the former, but now I suspect the latter.
But I’m intrigued as to why you can see several plump children at 11pm. An interesting night in, is it? Maybe it’s just your own family who are overfed, perhaps.
Don’t you recall the young girl in Birmingham whose mother and stepfather allowed her to starve to death? You think that there are no skinny children at all?
August 11, 2010 at 07:52
Oh dear, ‘worserer and worserer’. What is it about Lefties that makes it impossible for them to engage in conversation without unpleasant abuse and innuendo. I think I’ll leave, making sure to wash my hands before I go.
August 11, 2010 at 08:22
And don’t slam the door as you go, eh? Just had it painted.
August 11, 2010 at 10:50
Sorry to butt in.
David. The free milk is when they are at nursery or school. Children may be at these institutions all day. (some Sure Start places are 5 half days, some are 2 and a half days).
Sure Start centres sign up to Healthy Start and are not supposed to encourage the use of sweet drinks (such as orange juice) because of childrens teeth and so often only provide water and milk for children. Some centres and schools do not allow parents to bring in food and drinks for their children as this may contravene Healthy Start.
If milk is taken away, children will only be able to drink water, sometimes for the entire day. And not just the poor kids, all the kids, because mum isn’t able to put a carton of milk in a lunch box for little Rupert.
So it’s not a matter of feeding children. It’s a matter of giving them a drink during the day that is a little more interesting than water.
Of course, it’s not essential. We could make children drink water with their afternoon snack, and it won’t do them much harm if their parents make sure they get their milk the rest of the day, but it’s not very nice now is it?
August 11, 2010 at 10:58
p.s. vitamin D deficiency is actually on the rise in children in the UK. Drinking milk can help combat vitamin D deficiency.
Malnourished does not mean underfed but not getting enough of the right nutrients.
August 11, 2010 at 11:21
Mrs. ‘W’, what a pleasure to speak with someone civil and someone who provides a clear sensible answer.
I understand your explanation of the practicalities but I still do not understand the (for lack of a better word) philosophy that lies behind the policy. It is not, in my view, the business of government to feed children except in dire emergency. If mothers provide snack meals for their children whilst at these pre-schools, why cannot they provide a carton of milk?
Alas, “nice”, in my view is an insufficient reason for allowing governments to interfere directly with children’s diets. But then again, as our, er, ‘distinguished’ host would no doubt have it, I suppose I am not very nice, myself!
August 11, 2010 at 12:32
Like I say, Many pre-schools do not allow snacks or drinks to be brought in by parents. Hence no milk. Also, if parents do give their child a carton of milk, how does the child keep it cool?
Giving milk to children in pre-school is not interfering with their diets but ensuring that they continue to HAVE a diet whilst they are not in the care of their parents but (indirectly) in government care.
I hope you would be appalled if the government said we are no longer allowing children to eat or drink anything but water in pre-school because we can’t afford it, and anyway, it’s the parents job to feed them, we just educate them. That would be just as stupid as saying we are no longer going to ensure that a child’s diet is healthy with plenty of nutrients whilst they are in our care in the cheapest way, by supplying free milk, and cut it off. In fact, the two statements are pretty much the same.
Yes, governments shouldn’t do things because it’s nice, only in order to save money….. But ensuring that children are not malnourished (i.e. that they get sufficient nutrients) ensures a lower burden on the NHS. And, as children are less likely to get growth problems which can cause severe impediments, disability and unemployment benefits later too.
But it would be nice if our leaders were nice.
August 11, 2010 at 14:35
That’s a longer and more detailed explanation of my first answer, Mrs W. Well done for perseverence and gathering evidence.
Let’s see if Duffers gets it.
August 11, 2010 at 15:11
Hope so, I don’t remember ever getting to be milk monitor either, but I blame Thatcher for that. 😦
typo here ‘We do so because it actually makes more sense to provide a basic minimum to all so that no child (…) has a chance of decent health and of making their way in life,’
no child has a chance on decent health? Surely you mean every child… 😉
August 11, 2010 at 16:21
Yeah, I meant ‘every’. Ta.
August 13, 2010 at 08:56
Sorry for the delay, for two days I have been acting as a tour guide for visitors from Czechia. Now, where was I …?
Mrs. ‘W’, you are, I fear, one of those people who appear to view HMG as a nice, warm, comfy sort of proto-aunty, where-as I believe it is ever and always a proto-Big Brother, to be treated with utmost suspicion. Its power to intervene in the most personal of relationships has grown like Topsy in the last 65 years.
As far as children are concerned, I don’t even think it is the business of government to educate them (but that’s a separate argument) , let alone interfere with their diets. And as it happens, I do think it perfectly reasonable that children drink water at school.
It never seems to occur to those who favour more and more intervention and interference by government ‘diktat’ into the business of parenting that it is that very removal of parental responsibility which increases parental irresponsibility.
August 13, 2010 at 09:18
So children only have water during the day, ok. Personally I think that children learn better when they are not hungry, but what do I know…….
If that’s what you really think then nothing is going to change your mind.
I don’t think the government is ‘nice, warm, comfy sort of proto-aunty’ and sadly do agree to some extent that it is ‘ever and always a proto-Big Brother, to be treated with utmost suspicion’. But it shouldn’t be. They (ministers) are meant to represent us, not tell us what we do. But changing the view that government holds is on a par with ending world hunger…… I need to be a lot drunker to solve this problem!
August 13, 2010 at 11:42
Perhaps I didn’t express myself clearly – not “an unknown unknown”! – I didn’t mean to imply that children should not eat and drink during a day at school, only that they should eat and drink what their parents see fit to provide for them, not what some wretched government bureaucrat deems right. Obviously, if nothing at all is provided by parents then, like evidence of cuts and bruises, the authorities can be informed.
Already various self-appointed ‘Health Commissars’ are attempting to interfere with what all of us eat and drink using increasing government powers to enforce their views.
Always treat government as your potential enemy, is my advice, and for years now I have regularly sent people to sleep at dinner parties re-iterating my opinion!
August 13, 2010 at 18:07
Its [Government’s] power to intervene in the most personal of relationships has grown like Topsy in the last 65 years.
Really? 60-65 years ago the government was interfering it everyone’s diet through rationing. The Lord Chancellor wielded the censor’s pen. The government had far stricter laws on social policy, such as when people could do in the bedroom and if they needed to be married to do things. It was at the very least complicit in sending women to asylums if they had the temerity to bear children out of wedlock. Homosexuality was illegal. We had conscription.
All of that has gone, and what’s more the very thing that you are concerned about (milk for children) has changed from being for every child under 18 to being for under-5s onl
Too much reading about Orwellian nightmares and boring your friends at parties, and not enough dealing with reality, perhaps?
August 14, 2010 at 09:06
A shrewd thrust, sir, to the very heart of my comment which will remind me to engage brain (and memory) before tapping keyboard! It has given me pause for thought which is precisely why I enjoy these sorts of debate. My gut feeling is that authority has not lifted since the ’40s and ’50s, merely changed its hat, and more important, it has changed the means by which it is enforced. I shall ponder that and sometime, no doubt, I will get around to posting on the subject over at my place.
Even so, your point does not obviate the absolute necessity of resisting government interference into matters which are the prerogative of the subject.