Plans to secure the future of a fair and cost effective way to offer free milk to all nurserychildren 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.”
Notes to Editors
- A copy of the consultation and supporting information can be found at http://consultations.dh.gov.uk/nurserymilk/nextsteps
- For further information please contact the Department of Health press office on 0207 210 5239
- The consultation will last from 18th June to 11th September 2012.Nursery Milk is provided through the statutory Welfare Food Scheme. The Nursery Milk Scheme reimburses childcare providers for the full cost of purchasing milk they provide, free of charge, to children in their care. All children under five in a day care or early years setting for two or more hours a day are eligible to receive a free daily drink of milk (a 1/3 of a pint). This includes some 4 year olds in reception classes at primary schools. For children under one year old, this is given as infant formula.