Free School Meals: Summer Holidays

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:56 pm on 16th June 2020.

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Photo of Rebecca Long-Bailey Rebecca Long-Bailey Shadow Secretary of State for Education 3:56 pm, 16th June 2020

I welcome the hon. Lady’s comments. We take these small wins where we find them, but this campaign has demonstrated how the Government can be encouraged to change their position when we bring together our communities and key figures in sport, entertainment and so on, around an issue that our communities are passionate about. Let us move on as a House, tackle the root cause and move on together, united, to make lives better for these children.

Marcus was right in his letter yesterday. He spoke emotionally about his own story. He stated:

“My story to get here is all-too-familiar for families in England: my mum worked full-time, earning minimum wage to make sure we always had a good evening meal on the table. But it was not enough. The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked.”

He is right. The shameful reality is that for so many people in Britain today, no matter how hard they try, they cannot make ends meet. Opportunities are too few, wages are too low and bills are too high. Before the pandemic, more than 4 million children in the UK were living in poverty—that is nine out of every class of 30— and that is expected to rise to 5.2 million by 2022. Child poverty is a pandemic of its own in this country and one that has got far worse, unfortunately, over the last few years. Child poverty reduced by 800,000 under the last Labour Government, but the TUC found that, in 2019, that progress had been completely reversed, with the number of children growing up in in-work poverty alone having risen by 800,000 since 2010. Some 47% of children living in lone-parent families are in poverty, 45% of children from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are in poverty and 72% of children growing up in poverty live in a household where at least one person works.