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BASW expresses disappointment as MPs vote against free school meals extension

We urge the government to reconsider its position and give low income families the support that they need

With foodbank charity Trussell Trust reporting that they are giving out six emergency food parcels a minute this winter – a 61% increase on last year – the importance of free schools meals for disadvantaged children has become a priority for anti-poverty groups and campaigners. When eligible children are in school, they have access to a free meal, but get no such entitlement when it is half term or a holiday break.

Following on from footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend the provision of free school meals over the holidays, the Labour Party in Parliament yesterday put forward a motion in the House of Commons calling on the Government to continue directly funding free school meals over the school holidays until Easter 2021 to prevent children going hungry during the coronavirus crisis.

The motion failed to pass, with 261 MPs voting for and 322 voting against.

This the first winter since COVID-19 gripped the country, and if the Government does not take action to alleviate some of the pressures on the poorest families, already-stretched parents on low incomes and insufficient support will be forced to choose between heating and eating.

In June, BASW urged the Government to continue to provide school meals over the summer, and we now urge the Government to reconsider their position and give low income families the support that they need.

The impact of poverty on parenting is well known. Children who are in poverty are significantly more likely to be in the care of the state. The huge majority of parents in poverty parent well, but for those parents who are struggling, poverty makes their task of parenting much, much harder.

It is especially disappointing that the Children’s Minister who will be aware of the hardship many children are facing through no fault of their own also voted against this motion. As there were some members of the Government’s own party who voted for the motion, this proves that this is not a partisan issue, and that ensuring children are healthy and happy is a Government responsibility.