Closed petition Provide dairy-free alternatives as part of the national milk scheme for under 5s

Currently each eligible child under 5 who attends a preschool setting is provided with a dairy milk allowance for each session they attend. This means any alternatives for children with allergies or dietary requirements have to be paid for by the parent or nursery. The scheme should be extended.

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There are many children with dairy allergies that cannot drink milk or lactose free alternatives. There are many families who do not drink dairy milk for ethical reasons. Currently all of those children are being ignored by the free milk scheme. We would like dairy-free alternatives like soy or oat milk to be provided under the scheme so that all children are treated fairly and without discrimination.

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Government responded

This response was given on 18 October 2021

The Nursery Milk Scheme only allows reimbursement for milk. The Government will consider this position once a joint Scientific Advisory Committee Working Group on plant-based drinks has reported.

Milk is a valuable source of a range of nutrients, including protein, calcium and other vitamins and minerals. Calcium is especially important for children to help build healthy bones and teeth.

The Nursery Milk Scheme allows childcare settings to claim reimbursement for providing one-third of a pint of milk per day to children under the age of five who attend the setting for more than two hours per day. At present the legislation governing the Nursery Milk Scheme allows for the reimbursement of the cost of cow’s milk and infant formula based on cow’s milk.

A Committee on Toxicity/Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition Working Group has recently been established to jointly consider the toxicological and nutritional aspects associated with the consumption of plant-based alternatives to milk, such as soya and oat drinks. The Department will consider the position on the Nursery Milk Scheme once this Working Group has reported.

Department of Health and Social Care