Wednesday 27 January 2021 / 10:53 PM Angela Rayner / Education

Labour demands free school meals extension over February half term

Labour has today demanded that the Government extend free school meals over the upcoming February half term, warning that millions of children face going hungry “yet again” over the school holidays.

With half term looming and the Government once again refusing to extend free school meals over the school holidays, Labour is accusing the Prime Minister of leaving hungry children with nothing just weeks after condemning the disgracefully inadequate food parcels being offered to children eligible for free school meals by private providers.

Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, who was reliant on free school meals when she was growing up, said that “we should not even be having this discussion” almost a year into the coronavirus crisis and after the Government was previously “shamed into” extending free school meal support over the school holidays.

The call comes ahead of Rayner and Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, Kate Green, virtually meeting with families in Sheffield, where the local Labour council is providing food vouchers to children during the February half term and has distributed thousands of laptops to support children without devices to access remote learning.

The Government has refused to extend free school meals over the February half term, saying that millions of families and children can instead rely on the Covid Winter Support Grant funding. However, the Government’s own guidance clearly states that the Covid Winter Support Grant Scheme “is not intended to replicate or replace free school meals”.

Last week Labour forced a vote in Parliament to guarantee children receiving the full value of the free school meals scheme including during school holidays, yet the Government whipped Conservative MPs to abstain on the motion and Ministers are still refusing to act to make sure children are fed over the half term break.

Labour is calling on the Government to trust parents and give them the money their children are entitled to, in order to end the “obscene profiteering” of private companies making money from children going hungry.

Labour’s Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner MP, said:

“Almost a year into this pandemic children should not be in this situation yet again, worried about going hungry during the school holidays.

“The Prime Minister condemned the disgraceful food parcels that hungry children have been given, yet now he is planning to leave them without free school meals.

“The Government voted against free school meals in October, had to be shamed into extending support over the Christmas holidays and now they are letting down our children again.

“We should not even be having this discussion. Instead of dragging their feet and leaving millions of families in the lurch again the Government must make sure that no child goes hungry this half term.”

Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Kate Green, said:

“The way that this government has treated children and families during this pandemic is nothing short of disgraceful.

“The Government’s own guidance is clear, relying on the Covid Winter Support Grant will not guarantee that every child eligible for free school meals is fed during half term.

“The Government should trust parents and ensure that every child receives the full value of their free school meals entitlement, ending the obscene profiteering of private companies making money from children going hungry.”