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 thank my hon. Friend for her comments, and I completely agree. While today’s U-turn is welcome, it is merely a sticking plaster.

Work is often not a route out of poverty any more. Living in poverty does not mean people do not work or work hard, as some would have us believe. Shamefully, children go hungry every year, but this summer will be especially difficult for many families, as job losses and reduced incomes hit household budgets. Research from the Food Foundation shows that more than 200,000 children have had to skip meals because their family could not access the food they need during lockdown. The Institute for Public Policy Research has found that 200,000 more children are among those expected to be below the pre-virus poverty line at the end of the year.

It is very likely that, since the latest data became available, more than the 1.3 million children already eligible for free school meals will become eligible, with 2.1 million people claiming unemployment-related benefits in April alone, an increase of over 850,000 on the previous month. Indeed, in its coronavirus reference scenario, the Office for Budget Responsibility has predicted that the unemployment rate may rise to 10%.