A million children under restrictions to lose free school meals

Nearly a million children living in areas that are subject to Tier 2 and Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions are set to lose access to free school meals over the holidays.

The analysis by the House of Commons Library, commissioned by Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green, found that there are around 900,000 children living in areas subject to enhanced restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic. The new figures show that 61 per cent of the over 1.4 million children eligible for free school meals are living in areas subject to the increased restrictions.

Labour is warning that this will leave thousands of families facing a ‘double whammy’ as the October half term approaches – with incomes and jobs at risk while vital support for children is removed, as the Prime Minister has refused to extend the provision of free school meals over the holidays.

The opposition party has further warned that parents will be at significant risk from the Chancellor’s ‘sink-or-swim’ economic measures, as they were almost twice as likely to be furloughed as other working people, creating the serious risk of a cliff-edge for family incomes. Labour is forcing a vote in the House of Commons on the issue of free school meals, urging for the provision of free school meals to be extended over each school holiday from October half term to Easter 2021.

Angela Rayner, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, said: “This vote is about our values as a country and whether the government, in the middle of this crisis, is happy to let our children go hungry. Millions of families up and down the country are facing a bleak winter of real hardship as the furlough scheme is withdrawn and further restrictions are put in place without proper support for businesses, jobs and livelihoods.

“It is a moral outrage that the government will happily spend over £6,000 a day on consultants and line the pockets of Serco shareholders in return for a Test and Trace system that has collapsed whilst leaving almost a million children in areas subject to Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions to go hungry. No child in our country should be waking up hungry and having to face the day worrying where food might be coming from. But if Tory MPs don’t do the right thing today this vital support will be withdrawn next week and over 1.4 million children across our country will go hungry.”