Labour demand extension on free school meals

Labour has demanded that the Government “do the right thing” and extend free school meals over the February half term next week.

Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, who was reliant on free school meals when she was growing up, has accused the Prime Minister of “rank hypocrisy” in leaving children at risk of going hungry after condemning the disgracefully inadequate food parcels being offered to children eligible for free school meals by private providers.

The call comes ahead of Rayner virtually visiting West Ham United Foundation today and hearing from families in Essex who have been reliant on the club’s Holiday Hunger programme and food parcels during the school holidays.

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”.

Earlier this week Labour revealed that the £2 billion of taxpayers’ money that the Conservative government has handed to donors and friends with links to the Conservative Party could pay for free school meals for the 1.4 million eligible pupils over three years. 

On Twitter, Marcus Rashford MBE has been highlighting local councils that are using the Covid Winter Grant to provide children in their area with meals over the half term. In a tweet praising the DWP's Grant, he said: "Local Authorities keep posting what you have planned so I can help share with those that are most in need of help." 

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

“Time is running out and ministers must do the right thing today to make sure that no child goes hungry on Monday when the half term holidays start.

“It is rank hypocrisy for the Prime Minister to condemn the disgraceful food parcels that hungry children have been given a few weeks ago only to now leave those very same children without free school meals during the school holidays.

“The Government’s own guidance is clear – relying on the Covid Winter Support Grant will not guarantee that every child who is eligible for free school meals will be fed during half term. On the Government’s own terms Ministers are leaving our children at risk of going hungry on Monday.

“The fact the Conservatives have handed £2 billion in taxpayers’ money to donors and cronies and refused to make sure that no child goes hungry during this pandemic shows they have completely the wrong priorities.”