William Eichler 21 October 2020

Nearly one million children set to lose free school meals over holidays

Nearly one million children living in areas that are subject to Tier 2 and 3 coronavirus restrictions are set to lose access to free school meals over the holidays, a new analysis has revealed.

The House of Commons Library analysis, commissioned by Labour, found that there are around 900,000 children living in areas subject to enhanced restrictions.

The Library figures revealed that 61% of the nearly 1.4 million children eligible for free school meals are living in these areas.

Today Labour will force a vote in the House of Commons calling on the Government to extend the provision of free school meals over each school holiday from October half term to Easter 2021.

‘This vote is about our values as a country and whether the Government, in the middle of the crisis, is happy to let our children go hungry,’ said Angela Rayner MP, deputy leader of the Labour Party.

‘Millions of families up and down the country are facing a bleak winter of real hardship as the furlough scheme is withdrawn and further restrictions are put in place without proper support for businesses, jobs and livelihoods.’

A Government spokesperson said: ‘We have been giving substantial support to families and children, by providing free school meals when schools were partially closed, increasing welfare support by £9.3bn, and giving councils £63m for families facing financial difficulties.

‘We also provided vouchers through the Covid Summer Food Fund, in addition to the Holiday Activities and Food Programme.’

The spokesperson added: ‘Now that the vast majority of pupils are back in school and over 99% of schools have been open every week since term began, kitchens are able to provide healthy, nutritious meals to all children, including those eligible for free school meals.’

A petition calling on the Government to provide free school meals over the holidays, which was started by the footballer Marcus Rashford, has attracted over quarter of a million signatures.

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