Call for free school meals to be served for Northumberland children over half term

Northumberland Labour’s deputy leader has added his voice to calls for the Government to fund free school meals during the school holidays.

Wednesday, 21st October 2020, 6:00 am
There is pressure to provide free school meals for children during the holidays.

The latest figures show that there were 7,526 eligible children in the county last year – continuing the rising trend of the previous two years – with Labour warning that they now face half-term with tier two Covid-19 restrictions but without free school meals.

In the summer, the Government bowed to pressure to run a food voucher scheme throughout the holidays, but so far there has been a refusal to commit to doing the same over half term or Christmas.

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Cllr Scott Dickinson has now joined Labour colleagues nationally to call for the meals to be provided, while also asking Anne-Marie Treveylan, the Tory MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, to back this campaign.

“Children in Northumberland have had a really rough year,” he said.

“We can all feel how much the new lockdown restrictions are affecting our lives and that’s making it much harder for families to earn a living and put food on the table.

“It is utterly ridiculous that at a time when we should all be pulling together this Government is leaving local parents to fend for themselves.

“Ministers have been too slow at every stage during this crisis. So instead of waiting to the last minute, they should act now and keep free school meals going through half-term.

“It’s time for Anne-Marie Trevelyan to put this community ahead of her career and back our campaign; Northumberland children must not go hungry this half-term.”

In response, Mrs Treveylan said: “The new Universal Credit system is tapered to enable families to be supported in and out of work, according to their needs.

“If any family finds they are struggling to afford to feed their children, they should get in touch with me, so I can help them access the help they need. My team and I stand ready to help anyone who needs us.”

The call from Labour comes as the petition by the England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford approaches 300,000 signatures, with Parliament considering all petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures for a debate.

It states that the Government ‘should support vulnerable children and end child food poverty by implementing three recommendations from the National Food Strategy to expand access to free school meals, provide meals and activities during holidays to stop holiday hunger, and increase the value of and expand the Healthy Start scheme’.