politics

Labour calls for poorer kids to get free school meals over February half-term


Labour will tomorrow step up calls for the Government to provide free meals to poorer children during all school holidays this year.

Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green is due to hold virtual talks with parents, headteachers and foodbank chiefs on the first day of half term.

About 1.44 million youngsters in England are on free school meals.

Ministers have told town halls to use cash from the Covid Winter Grant to provide meals for kids over the week-long break – even though Whitehall guidance said the money “is not intended to replicate or replace free school meals”.

Calling for free meals to be extended outside of term-time, Ms Green said: “A decade of Conservative Government had eroded families’ safety nets with poverty rates rising even before the pandemic.



Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green

“The last year has shone a light on the impacts of poverty on health, wellbeing and learning.

“As we rebuild after this pandemic, we must deliver a transformation in support for families, starting with cancelling the planned cut to Universal Credit and guaranteeing provision of free school meals across all school holidays this year.”

Suzi Godson, co-founder of mental help app MeeToo, which provides advice to youngsters on mental health, wellbeing and social issues, said users were struggling with “basic needs such not being able to afford disposable masks and hand sanitiser, or living on a diet of cheap frozen meals because parents can’t afford fresh food”.



Experts have warned that some youngsters may go without

She told the Mirror: “As we move into the school holidays it’s more important than ever that we give children and young people all the support they need in this unprecedented winter.”

Gill Goodby, interim director of engagement at London Youth, a charity working with more than 650 youth clubs across the capital, said many youngsters were suffering mental health problems and “shouldn’t struggle with where food is coming from as well.”


A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that we will support every child eligible for free school meals while they are learning remotely during the school term.

“With the support of our £170million Covid Winter Grant Scheme, every council in England will be keeping vulnerable children warm and well-fed during the February half term.

“Children on free school meals will be supported this half term with food, vouchers or cash backed by government funding and delivered through local authorities whilst schools are shut.

“It’s wrong to suggest support will not be there – it has been widely welcomed by councils and charities.”





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