As local schools break up for half term, South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats have slammed the decision of the area’s three Conservative MPs to vote against continuing to fund free school meals in holiday time.
Reacting to the news that Luke Hall (Thornbury and Yate), Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) and Chris Skidmore (Kingswood) all voted against an opposition motion to extend the free school meals programme, Cllr Claire Young, Leader of South Gloucestershire’s Liberal Democrat Councillors said:
“It seems amazing that, in 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic, in one of the richest countries in the world, saying that no child should go hungry simply because they are not in school, should be controversial. But all three of our MPs seem to think that allowing children to go hungry is acceptable.
“I sincerely hope that the Conservative members of South Gloucestershire Council will show more compassion than their colleagues in Westminster.
“We will be asking the council’s leadership to use what influence it has with its own party’s Government to support an extension of free school meals during the holidays. If that fails, we will be asking the council to act locally, to ensure South Gloucestershire school children do not go hungry during future school holidays.”
4,212 children in South Gloucestershire are eligible to receive free meals when attending schools, but are left without support outside school term time. During the Coronavirus lockdown this was replaced with a voucher system in term time which (following a high-profile campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford MBE) was extended into the summer. The Government has now decided not to extend the scheme into further school holidays.
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
- On Wednesday the House of Commons voted against the opposition motion:
“That this House calls on the Government to continue directly funding provision of free school meals over the school holidays until Easter 2021 to prevent over a million children going hungry during this crisis.”
The motion was defeated by 322 votes to 261 with Conservative MPs (including all three South Gloucestershire MPs) voting against and Liberal Democrat and Labour and SNP MPs voting in favour.
- Children whose parents or guardians get certain benefits, and all children up to year 2, are entitled to a free school meal during term time. During the Covid-19 pandemic the Government introduced supermarket vouchers to cover the cost of a meal while the schools were closed. This scheme was extended into the Easter, May half term and summer school holidays[i].
- Approximately 4,212[ii] children in South Gloucestershire are eligible for free school meals:
Filton and Bradley Stoke 1,480
Thornbury and Yate 1,051
- South Gloucestershire’s forthcoming school holiday dates are:
Autumn Half Term 26th October – 30th October 2020
Christmas Holiday 21st December 2020 – 1st January 2021
Spring Half Term 15th February – 19th February 2021
Easter Holiday 2nd April – 16th April 2021
Image credit: Cheshire East Council