With Sheffield’s other Labour MPs, I’ve written Education Minister Gavin Williamson in response to the astonishing news that the Government is refusing to provide free school meals to children during Easter holidays.
Instead, the Government is planning to provide hampers to eligible families for just one week.
Not only will the hampers cover just half of the Easter break, unlike vouchers or cash, hampers prevent parents from choosing the food they deem suitable and appropriate for their own children.
Local authorities, including Sheffield City Council, have been explicitly told by the Department for Education that they cannot use government funding to provide families with vouchers instead of hampers.
The Government must abandon this position and ensure that all families who are eligible for free school meals receive cash or vouchers for food throughout the holidays. You can read our full letter to Gavin Williamson below.
Dear Secretary of State,
As Sheffield’s MPs, we are writing in response to the astonishing news that the Government is refusing to provide free school meals to children during the Easter holidays. Many families in Sheffield and across the country are reeling from losing their jobs and incomes, and yet the Government is again attempting to deny free school meals to children in these families.
Local authorities, including Sheffield City Council, have been explicitly told by the Department for Education that they cannot use Government funding to provide families with food vouchers during the Easter break and that, instead, the Holiday Activity Fund will be used to provide eligible families with a food hamper to last one week. The logic behind the plan to provide hampers for just half of the Easter break is unfathomable. The Government’s decision to feed hungry children for one week of the holidays but not the other is as bizarre as it is cruel.
The Government attempted to impose hampers on families in January but, due to public pressure, was shamed into doing the right thing and reinstated the voucher scheme. It beggars belief that Ministers seemingly learnt nothing from that episode and are now actively preventing local authorities from providing families with vouchers once again.
The Government must abandon this position and ensure that all families who are eligible for free school meals receive cash or vouchers for food throughout the holidays.
Since the original Covid lockdown was introduced last year, the Government has been forced to u-turn on the issue of free school meals repeatedly. As Labour MPs, we understand and share the public’s strongly-held belief that no child should go hungry and, because of that strength of feeling, we are confident that the Government will again be forced to backdown and u-turn. Nevertheless, it should shame the Government and every Conservative Member of Parliament that such a u-turn is necessary at all.
Clive Betts MP
Olivia Blake MP
Paul Blomfield MP
Gill Furniss MP
Louise Haigh MP