Socialist Worker

The Tories backtrack after school meals theft

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2730

Children will be provided with meals in the holidays

Children will be provided with meals in the holidays (Pic: Flickr/ Cheshire East Council)


The Tories have been forced into a humiliating climbdown over free school meals.

After weeks of insisting that the meals would only be provided in term time, the government has said it will provide them during holidays too.

It will spend over £400 million to provide a “winter grant scheme” and expand a programme of activities and food supplies.

The shift follows a high-profile campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford, backed by school ­workers and parents.

It shows that campaigning is worth it. But the Tory plan is also severely limited.

Its package includes a £170 million ring-fenced fund for councils, of which at least 80 percent will go towards help with food and bills.

Funded

This will be funded from the start of December until the end of March next year.

But the fact that the fund isn’t solely for food is a problem, given the soaring numbers of people who can’t afford to pay their rent and bills.

The Tories are also giving more money to food banks.

But what they should be doing is increasing benefits and wages so that people don’t have to rely on food banks in the first place.

Children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield said, “A “long-term solution to the ­growing number of children in poverty is urgently needed”.

She added that the government should also keep the temporary £20 rise it made to Universal Credit.

And not all children who need help will get it under the Tory plans. Rashford said some children will miss out “because their family income isn’t quite low enough”.

There are also questions about how people will access the support.

Deputy general secretary of the NAHT union Nick Brook said the move “falls short” in stopping holiday hunger.

Parents slam Tories over free school meals - ‘They don’t care about our kids’
Parents slam Tories over free school meals - ‘They don’t care about our kids’
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He said the plans may make it hard for some to get help.

“We would question whether provision of food should be ­dependent upon attending an activity, which might not be suitable, available or accessible for particular groups,” he said.

Around 1.4 million children receive free school meals across England.

The Tories said they would be provided for over the summer, yet many parents were still left ­without support.

Some could not download the vouchers they were entitled to for weeks, or found that the vouchers didn’t work at shop checkouts.

Kent County Council ran a voucher system over the October half term.

But it said that less than half of children eligible were sent vouchers.

In a statement last week, the council said it had given out 19,875 supermarket vouchers. It amounts to around 40 percent of the 50,000 children eligible for free school meals.

The Tories have been pushed back—but their measures will still leave children hungry.


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