What a score! Extra time on free school meals after Marcus Rashford and Tower Hamlets Council call ‘foul’
- Credit: BBC
The government has bent to pressure from football star Marcus Rashford and made a U-turn on ending free meal vouchers for needy children during the school summer holidays — on the day Tower Hamlets also sparked a petition calling for an extension.
The voucher scheme brought in when the pandemic emergency began in March would be extended through July and August, Boris Johnson has now promised.
It comes in the wake of a campaign kicked off by Man United’s Marcus Rashford who responded on Twitter today to Downing Street’s change of heart, saying: “Just look at what we can do when we come together in 2020.”
The council petition, meanwhile, called on the government to ensure that the meal voucher scheme continues over the summer.
Mayor John Biggs and his cabinet wrote to education secretary Gavin Williamson urging him to intervene to “protect the lifeline” as the economic impact of the crisis continues.
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“We told the Secretary of State just how important the voucher scheme is at this time of crisis,” the mayor said. “We hope our petition shows how important the issue is to families in the East End.”
The government had a few weeks before the school holidays to “do the right thing”, the mayor argued.
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The pandemic has already brought hardship to many families, his cabinet member for children and schools Danny Hassell pointed out.
The scheme worth £15 a week for each eligible child while schools are closed has served as a lifeline during the crisis, while it would have been “a huge mistake” to stop it over the summer, cllr Hassell said. This would “hurt many families at a time when they need extra support”.
But the government insisted it would not give meal vouchers outside term time, prompting Rashford to pen an open letter to MPs asking the decision be reversed.
Downing Street, in the end, heeded public pressure and announced that it would continue the free meals scheme with an £120m extra funding to feed an estimated million or so youngsters and Boris Johnson congratulating the 22-year-old football star on his campaign.
Being shown Rashford’s own personal story on today’s Breakfast show on the BBC about being brought up himself on free school meals while his single mum went out to work was enough to convince the PM.