Free School Meals: Summer Holidays

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:31 pm on 16th June 2020.

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Photo of Rushanara Ali Rushanara Ali Labour, Bethnal Green and Bow 6:31 pm, 16th June 2020

At the start of this crisis, Ministers said they would do whatever it takes to get the country through this crisis. The reality is that the Government have been dragged to this kicking and screaming because of the heroic campaigning of charities and the amazing Marcus Rashford. What the crisis shows is that this is a Government who are morally bankrupt. The fact that they even considered starving millions of children in this crisis, the fact that they did not have the instinct to protect those children, and that it took those campaigners and Opposition Members to get them to see sense, shows a moral bankruptcy that beggars belief. I hope that Ministers will reflect on that and learn from this experience.

Two hundred thousand children have had to skip meals during the lockdown. In Tower Hamlets, we face the highest child poverty in the country, with my constituency facing the second highest. My local authority has lost £50 million of income. Some £30 million of that is costs related to covid. That is £30 million of income lost. Local authorities are struggling to make ends meet and protect people.

The Government must take urgent action not just in relation to child poverty and child hunger during the summer, but to deal with the deep-rooted causes. They must, for example, scrap the two-child policy limit and deal with housing costs in cities like London that condemn families to poverty. We need a new settlement post covid to recognise that inequalities are literally killing people. We have seen that with the spectre of high death rates for black, Asian and minority ethnic people, and white disadvantaged people who are twice as likely to die in this crisis than wealthier white people. We need the Government to step up and protect all those who need our help.