Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary and MP for Salford and Eccles today (Sunday) has launched a campaign ‘Holiday Without Hunger’ demanding the Government reverses their decision to withdraw funding for free school meal vouchers over the summer holidays.
Nearly 1.3 million children in England are eligible for free school meals which are usually provided in school during term-time, with over 200,000 children eligible here in the North West. During the Covid-19 pandemic a voucher scheme has been established instead which, after pressure, was extended to cover the May half-term. However, the Government has confirmed the scheme will not run over the Summer holidays.
Under normal circumstances, every summer many families with children on free school meals struggle with holiday hunger. Often families are supported through charitable and council-run holiday lunch schemes and food banks. With the added pressure of the coronavirus crisis plunging families into deeper poverty and social distancing raising questions on how lunch schemes may run, many families are rightly concerned on how they will afford food during the summer holidays.
‘’Covid-19 will, if it hasn’t already, plunge many families into financial hardship. Parents should not be forced to decide whether to feed themselves or their children over the upcoming summer holidays, when the government could easily continue providing free school meal vouchers.
In Salford and Eccles alone, there are 4,276 children eligible for free school meals, and over 200,000 children eligible right across the North West. The government could choose to continue funding free school meals throughout the summer holidays, but so far, they have refused.
We know that the time spent away from school will have widened inequalities between children further and disadvantaged children need more support than ever during this pandemic. The Government has repeatedly said it will do ‘whatever it takes’ to help our economy through this crisis, the same should apply to children who are at risk of going hungry for six weeks this summer.
That is why I am launching this campaign today, to ensure that all children can have a holiday without hunger.’’