Posted: 12 June, 2020 at 1:58 pm

Free school meals must continue through summer

MP John Healey has called for the Government to continue providing free school meal vouchers during the summer holidays.

Currently a voucher system is in place which sees eligible pupils get £15 a week. The scheme was extended over the Easter and May half-term holidays.

But the Government has refused to keep it going through the long summer holidays.

In a letter to the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, Mr Healey said:

“It defies common sense. Why is a hungry child in May different to a hungry child in August?

“The Prime Minister and the Chancellor have both pledged to do ‘whatever it takes’ to help people get through the Covid-19 crisis. This promise rings hollow for parents who will struggle to feed their kids through July and August, if the free school meal voucher scheme is axed.”

In Rotherham and Barnsley nearly 14,000 children claim free school meals.

Many of these families will be facing extra financial hardship because parents have been unable to work during lockdown.

And with schools not opening fully until September at the earliest, months more disruption are ahead for pupils and more anxiety for parents.

The MP added: “The very poorest children are being hit hardest by school closures. They’re already missing out on the education and social support they get from school, and over summer good food will be gone too.

“Sadly, more children are going hungry in this crisis. Free school meals are the only proper meal some children get, so it’s vital they’re funded through the summer.”

Research from the Food Foundation at the beginning of May showed that five million people in UK households with children had experienced food insecurity after just a month of lockdown, and that more than 200,000 children have had to skip meals because their family couldn’t access sufficient food. They also reported that 500,000 children entitled to free school meals were not receiving any substitute.