ASHTON and Failsworth MP Angela Rayner has urged the Government to extend free school meals to stop thousands of children across Oldham and Tameside going hungry over half term.
Mrs Rayner, who was reliant on free school meals when she was growing up, is speaking up for the 18,000 children across her constituency who are eligible for help but face going without support when schools close on February 12.
With the February half term looming and the GFovernment once again refusing to extend free school meals over the 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.
Mrs Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, 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.”
Mrs Rayner’s call comes ahead of a virtual meeting she will hold alongside Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green with families in Sheffield, where the 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, but 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 and end the “obscene profiteering” of private companies making money from children going hungry.