Analysis by the Food Foundation thinktank estimates that as many as 900,000 more children have sought free school meals throughout the pandemic, on top of the 1.4 million who were already claiming them. In East Newcastle over 4,000 children are known to be eligible for free school meals. This is likely to increase as the Government’s mishandling of the pandemic continues to cause significant economic damage.
On 21 October, I co-signed an Opposition Day Motion in the House of Commons specifically calling on the Government to “continue directly funding provision of free school meals over the school holidays until Easter 2021 to prevent over a million children going hungry during this crisis”. Unfortunately, the Government were able to use their majority in Parliament to vote this down by 322 votes to 261. They argued that it is not the role of schools to provide food during the holidays, despite the fact that this was their position a couple of months earlier.
Under continued pressure from the Labour Party and others I understand that the Government have u-turned and will now introduce a winter grant scheme which will support those eligible with food and bills. I welcome their decision. It cannot be right that families are left hungry as a result of this Government’s incompetent handling of the pandemic.