MP for Newcastle North, Catherine McKinnell, has today called on the government to extend free school meals in the school holidays, including the upcoming October half term and Christmas, as part of a wider campaign supported by Marcus Rashford and Labour to ensure that no child goes hungry during the coronavirus pandemic.
A parliamentary petition by Marcus Rashford, calling for extra support for vulnerable children, including extending free school meals, has now received over 300,000 signatures.
Labour agree with Marcus and gave Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak 72 hours to change their position and provide this support. With the deadline expired, the Party is forcing a Commons vote on the issue.
In Newcastle North, 3,360 children are at risk of going hungry over the holidays as the government withdraws support for the provision of free school meals. The October half term comes as millions of families face a furlough cliff-edge that could see jobs across the country at risk, at the same time as millions of families face tighter restrictions.
The North East currently has the second highest rate of child poverty of any English region with 35% of children in the region living in relative poverty, compared to 30% nationally – and the highest proportion of pupils in receipt of free school meals.
“Millions of families face the prospect of losing their livelihoods because the government has lost control of the virus.
“These sink-or-swim plans for support could leave more than one million children, including almost 100,000 in the North East, at risk of going hungry over the school holidays.
“Every child living in poverty is a child deprived of the best start in life and the damage done in those early years can hold children back for the rest of their life
“Now is the time to act. We cannot stand by and let families be the victims of the government’s incompetence. Boris Johnson and his MPs must now do the right thing and vote to support Labour’s proposals.”