Like so many Members we have heard from today, I was also in receipt of free school meals when I was at school. I remember having to go to reception daily, in the morning, to collect my voucher and hand it over to the dinner ladies. I remember the bullying and the stigma I faced as a child because of that. That was in the late ’80s and early ’90s and it is shocking that we still need free school meals today.
In my constituency of Vauxhall, there are more than 4,000 children on free school meals. It is unimaginable that their families have to choose between putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their heads. I welcome the Government’s U-turn, but the fact that Labour had to table the debate in the first place shows a huge blind spot in the Government when it comes to child poverty.
I would like to highlight the Co-op Group’s announcement that it has taken the decision to extend the free school meals scheme over the summer holidays in all Co-op academies, which means that 6,000 students across 25 schools in the Co-op Academies Trust will continue to receive £20 vouchers every week, which is higher than the £15 provided by the Department for Education.
We all know the financial impact of covid on our families and that will have a big hit over the summer holidays. Will the Government reassure families in Vauxhall and across the country that they understand how important free school meals are and what a difference they will make to those families? I also urge the Government to look not just at the symptoms, but at the causes of child poverty.