Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > Uncategorised > UK’s hungry children: Over 2,000 paediatricians write to Boris Johnson (...)

UK’s hungry children: Over 2,000 paediatricians write to Boris Johnson asking he extend free school meals for the holidays

Tuesday 27 October 2020, by siawi3

Source: https://www.thecanary.co/uk/news/2020/10/25/over-2000-paediatricians-write-to-boris-johnson-asking-he-extend-free-school-meals-for-the-holidays/

Over 2,000 paediatricians write to Boris Johnson asking he extend free school meals for the holidays

The Canary

25th October 2020

More than 2,000 paediatricians have signed a letter urging Boris Johnson to extend free school meals to vulnerable children during the holidays.

Also read:
Communities rally to feed hungry children as ministers leave them high and dry. Claud Fullwood , 26th October 2020
Tory MP’s office garden covered in empty plates in school meals protest
The Canary , 25th October 2020

The open letter from the RCPCH members says:

Childhood hunger is an issue that should transcend politics.
Few would disagree that one of our most basic human responsibilities is to ensure children have enough to eat.

It adds:

We call on the UK Government to match the pledges of the Welsh and Scottish Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive, to continue to provide children from low-income backgrounds with free meals over the coming weeks and to then extend this at least until the Easter school holiday, as they have done in Wales and Scotland.

Shocking

Members of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said they are shocked by the government’s “refusal” to do so. And they praised footballer Marcus Rashford for his “powerful campaigning” on the issue.

Businesses and organisations across England have pledged to offer free food to children from low income backgrounds. It comes as MPs rejected a bid from Labour, backed by the Manchester United star, to extend free school meals over the holidays until Easter. Rashford’s own campaign goes further than what Labour has called for, as the footballer has petitioned the government to:

– Expand free school meals to all under-16s where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefit
– Provide meals & activities during all holidays
– Increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers to at least £4.25 per week, and expand the scheme.

Labour has now warned it’ll bring the issue back to the House of Commons if ministers don’t change course in time for Christmas. Shadow education secretary Kate Green called on the prime minister to meet with Rashford’s taskforce “as a matter of urgency” to discuss its proposals for ending child poverty.

Breaking ranks

Johnson’s own party colleague Robert Halfon said meeting with Rashford was a “no-brainer”. While fellow Tory MP Tobias Ellwood said extending provision over the holidays is a “simple and practical vehicle” to support families. He called on the government to “re-visit” the option.

Councils, including Conservative-run bodies, have announced stop-gap measures to cover the October half-term break which begins on 26 October.

Local councils

Tory-run Kensington and Chelsea council said it will pay for free school meals for eligible pupils in the borough. While other Tory-controlled councils getting on board include Hillingdon, Medway, and Wandsworth.

Meanwhile, Tory West Midlands mayor Andy Street said the government should make “a clear decision” on whether it would or wouldn’t fund free school meals over holidays. He added that it should not be “a last-minute thing”.

The Labour leader of Birmingham City Council pledged to provide 61,000 eligible youngsters with meals. It will be in a scheme which will cost the local authority between £800,000 and £1m. And the mayor of Liverpool said he was “not prepared to stand by and watch”, as he announced £300,000 of funding.

McDonald’s UK has also offered support to families. It’s announced a partnership with Fare Share UK to provide one million meals for families in need.

Downing Street has declined to praise such outlets for stepping in, with a Number 10 spokesperson saying:

I believe the PM said during PMQs that free school meals will continue during term time and that he wants to continue to support families throughout the crisis so they have cash available to feed kids if they need to.

°°°

Source: https://www.thecanary.co/uk/news/2020/10/25/is-another-u-turn-looming-senior-tory-admits-government-got-it-wrong-on-free-school-meals/

Is another U-turn looming? Senior Tory admits government got it wrong on free school meals.

The Canary

25th October 2020

Pressure is ramping up on Boris Johnson to do a U-turn on free school meals. Meanwhile, a senior Tory said the government has “misunderstood” the mood of the country.

Revolt

MPs from within the Conservative Party have added their voices to the increasing calls for a rethink. It comes after a vote last week rejected a Labour bid to extend provision over the school holidays. Footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign on the issue, meanwhile, is continuing to gather pace.

Senior Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme:

I think we have to admit that we have misunderstood the mood of the country here.

The public want to see the Government taking a national lead on this. I think the Government will probably have to think again on that, particularly if there’s going to be more votes in the House of Commons.

Moreover, Tory MP Tobias Ellwood admitted he regrets voting against the original motion, telling Times Radio:

I’m happy to say that I’ve been convinced.

But Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis defended the government, saying it’s taken “the right position”. He said they had increased Universal Credit and were providing £63m to local authorities to help people in their communities. He told Sophy Ridge on Sunday:

What we are looking to do is ensure that we deal with child poverty at the core, putting the structure in place that means even in school holidays children can get access to the food that they need

“Compassion and empathy”

Rashford’s petition has gathered more than 800,000 signatures so far. The England and Manchester United striker has publicised a string of councils and businesses across England who are stepping up to provide free food to those in need during the pandemic.

Tweeting details of the various community efforts to help children from low income backgrounds, the player said he’s “so thankful and so very proud” for the “compassion and empathy” shown.

More than 2,000 paediatricians have also signed a letter to the prime minister backing Rashford’s campaign. They’ve said they’re shocked by the government’s “refusal” to extend free school meals. The open letter from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health says:

Childhood hunger is an issue that should transcend politics.

Opposition

Labour has warned that it’ll bring the issue back before parliament if ministers don’t change course in time for Christmas. Opposition leader Keir Starmer tweeted:

But Labour has only been pushing for children to get extended free meals for this academic year, whereas Rashford has called for a permanent fix.

Dickensian

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield compared the idea of debating such an issue to something from the pages of the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist. She told Sophy Ridge on Sunday:

To have a debate about whether we should make sure that hungry and vulnerable children have enough to eat is something that is strikingly similar to something we’d expect to see in chapters of Oliver Twist – a novel published in the 19th century.

Some Tory MPs have been accused of controversial comments on the subject. One sparked anger after appearing to suggest local businesses giving away free food should not seek further government support. While another appeared to agree with a comment suggesting some meal vouchers went direct to “a crack den and a brothel”.

Both Selaine Saxby and Ben Bradley insisted their comments had been taken out of context.

Rashford has urged people to “rise above” disappointment. He described abuse of MPs and their families as “unacceptable” and “unnecessary” and called for “collaboration” and “togetherness”. He also called for a continued focus on helping children. A number of councils, including Conservative-run bodies, have announced stop-gap measures to cover the October half-term break which begins on Monday 26 October.