Future of free nursery milk secured

Published on Monday, 18 June 2012 10:51
Written by Scott Buckler

Plans to secure the future of a fair and cost effective way to offer free milk to all nursery children was set out today by Public Health Minister Anne Milton as she launched a consultation on how the scheme operates

Figures show that the Government is spending up to 92p for a pint of milk through the scheme while most consumers can pick up one up for 45p – almost half the price.

The current nursery milk scheme has been running since the 1940s and the Government is committed to continuing to provide free milk for all nursery children. But analysis shows modernising the operation of the scheme could save up to £20 million each year.

In its current form, the legislation covering the scheme provides for full reimbursement of the cost of the milk. While childcare providers are encouraged to seek value for money, their are cases where this is not be happening.

Around 1.5 million UK children under-five in 55,000 childcare settings receive free milk.  The consultation explores four different options to reform the scheme:
•    leave the scheme as it currently exists;
•    cap the price that can be claimed for milk by childcare providers;
•    issue e-voucher cards which childcare providers can use to purchase milk; or
•    introduce a government contract with an external provider to directly supply and deliver milk to all childcare providers.
The consultation will also seek views on the price, access, voucher schemes, supply and claims procedures.
Public Health Minister Anne Milton said:
Milk has many benefits to children’s health and is important for their development – we are committed to continuing to provide free milk for all under-fives.
“But the current scheme has not changed operationally since it began and costs have ballooned. In four years, costs have jumped from £27 million in 2007 to a staggering £53 million in 2011.  Estimates show that modernising how the scheme operates could save as much as £20 million each year.
“Everyone is encouraged to take part in this consultation and share their views on the proposed changes.”

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