Liberal Democrat-run councils have stepped up to provide free school meals for hungry children after the Government voted against extending the scheme to the holidays.
Richmond and Kingston borough councils are setting up schemes to help families through half-term and Christmas holidays, and Sutton council have confirmed they are also working on a scheme to support families and ensure no child goes hungry.
Nationally, the Liberal Democrats are calling for:
- Free school meals to every pupil whose parents or guardians are in receipt of Universal Credit
- Food vouchers for every one of those pupils in every school holiday and during any period of lockdown
- Free school meals to pupils from low-income families whose parents or guardians have no recourse to public funds and destitute asylum seekers
Sign the petition here www.libdems.org.uk/meals.
This week, Tory MPs voted down a plan to feed more than 1.4 million children during school breaks until Easter next year.
Following the Conservative Government's shameful refusal to ensure the capital's most vulnerable children will be fed over the half term holiday, it has fallen to Liberal Democrat councils in London to step up to the plate and make sure these children won't go hungry.
London Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Luisa Porritt said: “I'm so proud that every Lib Dem-run council in London has stepped up to provide extra support to the most vulnerable children in their boroughs. Alongside other councils, thousands of small businesses and many community-led organisations across the city, they have stepped up where the Conservative Government has failed them so that together, we will make sure that no child goes hungry.
“London has the second highest percentage of children in need of Free School Meals in England. Those families are facing the greatest hardship during this pandemic. The Government's failure to support them is a dereliction of duty at a time of national crisis.
“Marcus Rashford has inspired an outpouring of generosity, proving that in his words 'the superstars of this nation lie in local communities'. I’m proud that Londoners have lived up to our long history of standing together in tough times.”
Richmond council leader Gareth Roberts, the south west London constituency candidate for next year's London Assembly election, said: "It beggars belief that the Conservative Government have failed to address this issue. Hard pressed local councils have already suffered millions of pounds in cuts but we will always do the right thing when it comes to vulnerable children and their families. I am pleased that we are able to set aside funding here in Richmond that will protect those who are struggling and in need of help through no fault of their own."
Richmond council leader Gareth Roberts
Cllr Caroline Kerr, Leader of Kingston-upon-Thames Council, said: "The Council is stepping in to provide resources and support to vulnerable families and children in Kingston. No child or family should go hungry in London and it is our job as local community leaders to step up when required. I'm very proud that Kingston will be playing its part to support those in our community who need extra help but it is our Government that should reflect on its failure to listen and act."
Lib Dem leader Ed Davey, MP for Kingston and Surbiton, said: "The government should be providing money for councils to make sure free school meals are available to those that need them. But I’m proud my council has acted to make sure no child goes hungry."
Lib Dem leader Ed Davey, right, with London mayoral candidate Luisa Porritt, centre, on a recent visit to The Real Junk Food Project in Twickenham. The Real Junk Food Project collects food from local shops destined for landfill, and with the help of its volunteers, turns it into delicious, healthy meals to serve to the community on a 'Pay As You Feel' basis
Cllr Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council said: "We are working up plans to support those families and children most in need in our borough. It is right that Councils look to provide extra support during a pandemic, where families have lost significant income, but the Conservative Government is failing in its duty here to protect people in Sutton who are suffering considerable hardship. We simply cannot standby whilst children go hungry - we must act."
Twickenham MP Munira Wilson said: "So proud Richmond Council is funding free school meals over half term. Where the heartless Tory government fails, Lib Dems are stepping in to ensure kids don't go to bed hungry."
It’s one of those days where you know your head will hit pillow at the end of the day, pleased to have made a real difference. Sad that we had to in the face of such dreadful Tory neglect, but it’s a difference that we #LibDems could make because you put us in office. Thank you https://t.co/SD587GZAQP— Alexander Ehmann 🔶 🇪🇺 (@AlexanderEhmann) October 23, 2020
I’m signing off with a feeling a pride tonight. The superstars of this nation lie in local communities. Even after taking the biggest hits you have wrapped your arms around your community to catch children as they fell. I really can’t thank you enough, you’re amazing ♥️— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) October 23, 2020
In Wales, Liberal Democrat Kirsty Williams is the Education Minister and the Welsh Government has confirmed free school meals provision during holidays until Easter 2021.
Kirsty said: “We have worked tirelessly this year to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and the countless challenges it has presented but we have not, and will not, forget those for who school is about far more than education.”
Every year, vulnerable families worry about the approaching summer break, when they will need to find an extra £30-£40 per week to buy the meals usually provided at school.
It is an absolute travesty for children to go hungry, on any day of the year. The absence of any support equivalent to free school meals in the holidays is a long overlooked anomaly, and now families face the threat of future lockdowns too.
However, too many pupils living in poverty also miss out on a free school meal because the earnings threshold is set too low. We also want the Government to permanently extend eligibility for free school meals to every child whose parents are in receipt of universal credit or have a low-income with no recourse to public funds.
Liberal Democrats are calling for free school meals for every child in primary and secondary school whose family is receiving universal credit, or are low-income with no recourse to public funds, and meal vouchers for all of these pupils covering school holidays and lockdown.