Search

‘Christmas without hunger’: Suffolk’s joy as Rashford campaign nets school holiday support

PUBLISHED: 18:49 08 November 2020 | UPDATED: 18:49 08 November 2020

Prime minister Boris Johnson called Manchester United's Marcus Rashford personally to tell him of the extra funding. Picture: Michael Regan/PA Wire.

Prime minister Boris Johnson called Manchester United's Marcus Rashford personally to tell him of the extra funding. Picture: Michael Regan/PA Wire.

PA Wire

A £220million boost to support the poorest children and families through Christmas and Easter has been welcomed in Suffolk - after footballer Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign.

Suffolk county councillor Jack Abbott praised Marcus Rashford's campaign. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNSuffolk county councillor Jack Abbott praised Marcus Rashford's campaign. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The government came in for sharp criticism for not agreeing to the funding of free school meal vouchers during October half-term, with more than 1m people signing a petition by the Manchester United and England footballer.

Downing Street said at the time: “We believe the best way to support families outside of term time is through Universal Credit rather than government subsidising meals.”

MORE: Suffolk’s pubs and restaurants praised for giving out free school meals

However, prime minister Boris Johnson personally phoned Rashford after United’s weekend match against Everton to confirm £220m of extra funding for both the Covid Winter Grant Scheme and the extension of the Holiday Activities and Food programme to cover the Easter, summer and Christmas breaks in 2021.

Geoff Barton, former headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, was also pleased about the funding. Picture: GREGG BROWNGeoff Barton, former headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, was also pleased about the funding. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Jack Abbott, county councillor for Ipswich’s Bridge division and Labour’s spokesperson for children’s services, education and skills at Suffolk County Council, said: “I want to pay tribute to Marcus Rashford who has forced this U-turn.

“Because of his determination, compassion and grace, hundreds of thousands of children can look forward to a Christmas without hunger.

WATCH: Empty plates left at Ipswich Town Hall in school meals protest

“You cannot overstate the difference he has made to the lives of so many families.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey announced the extra funding in her role as work and pensions secretary. Picture: DEPARTMENT FOR WORK AND PENSIONSSuffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey announced the extra funding in her role as work and pensions secretary. Picture: DEPARTMENT FOR WORK AND PENSIONS

You may also want to watch:

“Of course, this belated decision doesn’t absolve Boris Johnson and his MPs from voting down the extension of free meals over half-term - we won’t forget that.

“However, the incredible generosity of businesses and charities in lieu of the government’s support meant that thousands of children could still eat.”

Making the announcement, Suffolk Coastal MP and work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey said: “We want to make sure vulnerable people feel cared for throughout this difficult time and, above all, no-one should go hungry or be unable to pay their bills this winter.”

MORE: Suffolk MPs back government to reject free school meals extension

Braintree MP James Cleverly said: “I’m glad that there is agreement that Free School Meals isn’t the best way to help children and their families through this difficult time” - saying the additional funding “will support children and families this winter.”

Chelmsford MP Vicky Ford also said the extra funding was “good news”, while Geoff Barton - general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders and former headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, also welcomed the announcement.

He said his union was “at a loss” as to why it could not have been ready for the October half-term holiday, but added: “Nevertheless, the commitment over the next few months is a positive step forward and should help to address the fact that the financial circumstances of many struggling families will have worsened as a result of the Covid emergency.”

However, Mr Abbott added: “The government mustn’t give themselves a pat on the back and say ‘job done’.

“This will help feed children in the short-term, but it won’t combat the fundamental causes of child poverty and hunger.

“This needs to be just the first-step.”


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the East Anglian Daily Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the East Anglian Daily Times