‘Child hunger does not stop for holidays’ - free school meals plea for half-term and Christmas
- Credit: PA
Free school meals should be offered to disadvantaged children forced to self-isolate during the autumn and Christmas school holidays, a Suffolk councillor has told a government minister.
Jack Abbott, Labour’s spokesman for children’s service, education and skills on Suffolk County Council, made the plea in a letter to Chelmsford MP and education minister Vicky Ford.
It comes after the government extended free school meals vouchers over the summer holidays, following calls from Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford.
Mr Abbott, Suffolk Labour’s spokesman for children’s services, education and skills, said: “The government’s belated U-turn and decision to provide free school meal vouchers over the summer holidays was rightly and roundly welcomed.
“However, it simply makes no sense to now withdraw that support.
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“Earlier this week, the prime minister announced tougher restrictions which could last for six months and, despite the chancellor’s new measures, millions of people could still lose their job or see their income drop dramatically.
“Things are set to get tougher for families already struggling, not easier.
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“This pandemic has devastated the lives and livelihoods of so many people. Numerous families have already lost all or some of their income. Businesses which have taken years of hard-work to build up have had to close overnight.
“The tragic result of this will be more children living in poverty and more children not having enough to eat. This is true irrespective of whether it is term time or during the school holidays.
“The government must reconsider - child hunger does not stop for the school holidays.”
A government spokeswoman said: “The latest data shows that 99.9% of state-funded schools are open to pupils and as such, normal free school meal provision has resumed with caterers providing healthy, nutritious meals to those eligible pupils. The national voucher scheme is no longer in operation.
“We continued to provide free school meals while schools remained closed to many children during the pandemic as part of a much wider package of government support.
“This includes more than £9.3billion extra welfare support, including increasing Universal Credit by up to £20 a week as well as funding to local authorities to provide emergency assistance to families with food and essentials and meals.
“Defra provided £63million which has been given to and is being distributed by local authorities to those in need.”