Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary

#EndChildFoodPoverty - @LabourUK forces parliamentary vote on free school meals after government refuses to change course 

Opening the debate on extending free school meals through the holidays, Kate Green MP, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, said:

"I am very pleased to open today’s debate on such an important motion – on behalf of children across our country who are at risk of going hungry, and all the families worried that their children will be hungry over the school holidays.

"But the truth is we should not need to be having this debate at all.

"In summer, when this issue was due to be debated in this House, the government saw sense, did the right thing, and ensured no child would go hungry over the summer.

"But this time, despite many families facing even more challenging circumstances now than they did four months ago, shamefully, the government is walking away from its obligation to hungry children.

"In their hearts, Honourable Members on the government benches, who rightly supported the extension of free school meals over the summer holiday, know that. And they will also know that the thousands of families who rely on free school meals to help them make ends meet will watch their votes tonight with great interest.

"The Right Honourable Member for Harlow and Honourable Member for Newton Abbot have said they will vote for this measure. I commend them for setting party politics aside to do the right thing, and I hope many more of their colleagues will join us.

"Over 1.4 million children benefit from free school meals. Nearly 900,000 eligible children live in areas subject to Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions. Their families face a furlough cliff-edge, an inadequate replacement system, and the deep fear of growing unemployment.

"So the question for Members opposite is simple.

"Are they absolutely confident that support is adequate and that no child in their constituencies will go hungry?

"We do know what the Prime Minister thinks.

"Downing Street said 'it’s not for schools to provide food to pupils during the school holiday'.

"I cannot believe that I have to spell this out.

"It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that children do not go hungry.

"They don’t stop being hungry just because the school bell rings for the end of term.

"And surely our constituents send us as Members of Parliament to this place to vote to ensure that the children who most need our help – at any time of year - are protected?

"So let me say to Members opposite: put party politics aside tonight, and vote to extend free school meals for the sake of our children.

"After all, since the summer holidays, the situation has got worse, more desperate, for millions of families.

"But while the provision of free school meals is being closed, the gravy train is still open for business.

"£7,000 a day for consultants working on a test and trace system that doesn’t work.

"£130 million to a Conservative Party donor for unsafe Covid testing kits.

"£160 million profits for Serco, and an increased dividend for shareholders, because the government threw good money after bad on a test and trace contract that’s robbing the public.

"Yesterday a Business Minister said that extending free school meals is not as simple as writing a cheque.

"But why is it that the money only runs out when it is hungry children who need it?

"And I am surprised that there isn’t greater recognition on the government benches that families across the country are finding it difficult to manage.

"It was only a matter of weeks ago that national newspapers were full of briefings from friends of the Prime Minister reporting anxiety about how he’d provide for his family.

"He had a new baby and, with the loss of his lucrative newspaper columns, his friends said it would be a strain to manage on his £150,000 salary as Prime Minister.

"It is, frankly, contemptible that the kind of concern we read in the national newspapers for the Prime Minister’s finances is not extended to the millions across this country who are genuinely struggling.

"Imagine you’re a parent of one of the over 3,000 children in the Prime Minister’s own constituency who benefits from free school meals. To read one week about how hard it is to make ends meet on £150,000 a year, and then to see the provision of a free meal for your child taken away a few days later, is utterly unjustifiable.

"The fact that we need to have this debate is a sign of repeated failures on the part of this government.

"A failure of compassion.

"A failure of competence in not recognising the challenges parents face, and giving them the support they need to provide for their children.

"And a failure of leadership not to be clear and unequivocal that no child should go hungry in one of the world’s richest countries.

"But where the government have failed to show leadership there have been many others who have stepped up to do the right thing.

"I pay tribute to Marcus Rashford – as the MP for Old Trafford, I congratulate him on his late winning goal last night, and I hope he will score another late victory today when we vote on our motion.

"And I congratulate and thank the many others across the country who are acting and campaigning to end child poverty and food poverty.

"It brings me huge pride to see people come together and take action where the government are failing to do so.

"Co-operative schools are already committing to providing free school meals over the holidays - that represents the very best of the coop movement.

"A movement built on support for one other, helping your neighbours and your community, doing what is right for the most disadvantaged.

"Will the Secretary of State follow their example?

"Colleagues in the Welsh Labour government, and in Northern Ireland and some parts of Scotland, have already committed to providing free school meals over the holidays until Easter .

"Again, I ask, will the Secretary of State follow their example?

"Catering staff across our schools have worked flat out to fulfil their essential role in providing free school meals. They’re among the many low paid workers we have learnt to depend on during the pandemic. But many feel that their jobs and livelihoods are at risk

"Can the Minister tell us what steps are being taken to protect and support the jobs of school catering staff, and others who deliver this support to our children?

"Before the pandemic, there were over four million children growing up in poverty.

"In the months ahead, that number will only increase.

"Child poverty is a pandemic of its own. It is a pandemic that reflects the great evils still haunting our society.

"A society blighted by wages that are not enough for working families to make ends meet, a housing crisis that creates insecurity, and a social security system cut to ribbons by the Party opposite.

"Today’s proposals are not a silver bullet, and they will not end child poverty. They are a sticking plaster, but one that is badly and urgently needed.

"Needed by the 1.4 million children who could go hungry without them.

"By families worried about putting food on the table.

"So will the Secretary of State do what is right, and take this first small step to ensure that over a million children do not go hungry this Christmas?

"As I said at the start, this debate should not even be happening. The government should never have let things go this far.

"They still don’t have to.

"The Secretary of State can stand up now and do the right thing. He can listen to Labour, to campaigners, and to families across the country, withdraw his amendment, and support our motion.

"Sadly, I do not think he will do so.

"Yet months ago, Marcus Rashford asked the question that started this debate, and that saw the government extend free school meals over summer.

"Today I ask the Secretary of State the same simple question:  'Can we all agree that no child should go to bed hungry?'

"I commend our motion to the House."


Labour will force a vote in Parliament on plans to extend free school meals over the school holidays, after the Government refused to extend support to more than 1.4 million children in the October half term. 

On Saturday, Labour called for the Prime Minister to change course and provide free school meals to all eligible children during the holidays – warning that if he did not do so a vote would be forced in Parliament. The decision came after the Prime Minister’s spokesperson rejected the call of campaigners, including Marcus Rashford.

Now, Labour has confirmed that on Wednesday 21 October, there will be a vote in Parliament on this issue led by deputy leader Angela Rayner MP. 

Labour has tabled a motion on which all MPs can vote to support or oppose the extension of free school meals. The motion calls on the Government to continue directly funding provision of free school meals over the school holidays until Easter 2021 to prevent over a million children going hungry during the coronavirus crisis. 

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said:  

“Over a million children are at risk of going hungry over the holidays without access to free school meals. It is essential the Government provides this support urgently. 

“We gave the Prime Minister the chance to change course, but he refused to do so. Now his MPs must decide if they want to vote for their constituents to get this vital support or if they will leave families struggling to put food on the table.” 

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, according to new analysis by the House of Commons Library.

The Library analysis, commissioned by Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green found that there are around 900,000 children living in areas subject to enhanced restrictions. The new figures show that 61% of the over 1.4 million children eligible for FSM are living in areas subject to the increased restrictions.

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.

Labour has 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.

Today (Wednesday 21 October) Labour will force a vote in the House of Commons on the issue of free school meals. Labour’s motion simply calls for the provision of free school meals to be extended over each school holiday from October half term to Easter 2021. But without the support of Conservative backbenchers, support will be withdrawn ahead of next week’s half term.

Yesterday, Labour’s Shadow Children and Early Years Minister Tulip Siddiq MP, wrote to Conservative backbenchers, urging them to defy Boris Johnson and support Labour’s plans to extend free school meals over the holidays.

angela rayner thumbnailAngela Rayner MP, 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.”

Last week, Children's Food Campaign sent a joint open letter to the Secretary of State for Education on behalf of 35 organisations on this subject.

In response to the debate in Parliament on Free School Meals, and the defeat of the motion to extend holiday support until Easter 2021, Children's Food Campaign Co-ordinator Barbara Crowther says:

“We are profoundly dismayed that Parliament has rejected the motion to provide food support to vulnerable children during forthcoming school holidays. We thank all the MPs who spoke up for children today. We had hoped Parliament would unite, as this is not the time for children living in food insecurity to be used as political footballs.

"Our campaign has the support of directors of public health, head teachers, children’s organisations, food networks, school caterers and national education unions, as well as hundreds of thousands of parents, young people and teachers.

"We will not give up campaigning for all children’s rights to food. We hope the Government will reconsider and make its own decision now to unite with Wales and Scotland in supporting children through to Easter 2021, as well as move to adopt the longer term recommendations in the National Food Strategy.”

Labour is calling for the extension of free school meals (“FSM”) to all children who are currently eligible in all of the school holidays between now and spring 2021. This includes the coming October half term, the Christmas holidays, February half term and the Easter holidays. 

There are currently over 1.44 million children* eligible for free school meals, who could all benefit from this policy if it was enacted. 

Using pupil data as of January 2020, and Covid-19 restrictions as of 19 October 2020, there were  around 4.6 million pupils attending schools in areas subject to Tier 2 or Tier 3 Covid-19 restrictions and of these around 0.9 million pupils were known to be eligible for free school meals.

Conservative MP and chair of the Education Committee Robert Halfon expressed disappointment at Boris Johnson rejecting Marcus Rashford’s call for free school meals to be extended over the holidays. 

The Labour led government in Wales has committed to ensuring free school meal provisions for every school holiday until Easter 2021. 

During the lockdown parents were nearly twice as likely to be furloughed as those without children. 13.6% of parents were furloughed, compared to 7.2% of those without children, according to the Office for National Statistics

Data from the House of Commons Library has found that there are nearly 900,000 pupils attending schools in areas subject to Tier 2 and Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions:

 

 

 

 

Pupils attending schools in Tier 2 or Tier 3 areas

England, 19 October 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower Tier LA name

Covid-19 restriction Tier

Number of pupils known to be eligible for FSM

Total pupils

Blackburn with Darwen

Tier 3

                                   5,358

           29,744

Blackpool

Tier 3

                                   6,367

           19,643

Burnley

Tier 3

                                   3,741

           15,192

Chorley

Tier 3

                                   2,295

           18,307

Fylde

Tier 3

                                   1,098

           10,095

Halton

Tier 3

                                   6,040

           19,493

Hyndburn

Tier 3

                                   2,913

           13,260

Knowsley

Tier 3

                                   6,965

           20,512

Lancaster

Tier 3

                                   3,622

           19,718

Liverpool

Tier 3

                                 20,197

           75,901

Pendle

Tier 3

                                   2,605

           15,294

Preston

Tier 3

                                   4,096

           20,766

Ribble Valley

Tier 3

                                      820

           11,854

Rossendale

Tier 3

                                   2,030

           12,374

Sefton

Tier 3

                                   7,407

           42,230

South Ribble

Tier 3

                                   2,252

           17,427

St. Helens

Tier 3

                                   5,228

           27,268

West Lancashire

Tier 3

                                   2,627

           16,714

Wirral

Tier 3

                                 10,879

           51,991

Wyre

Tier 3

                                   2,531

           14,831

Tier 3

 

                                99,071

        472,614

 

 

 

 

Ashfield

Tier 2

                                   4,041

           19,861

Barking and Dagenham

Tier 2

                                   8,291

           44,517

Barnet

Tier 2

                                   8,600

           66,649

Barnsley

Tier 2

                                   7,783

           34,761

Barrow-in-Furness

Tier 2

                                   1,595

             9,560

Basildon

Tier 2

                                   4,806

           28,873

Bassetlaw

Tier 2

                                   2,705

           18,092

Bexley

Tier 2

                                   5,774

           44,645

Birmingham

Tier 2

                                 61,577

         214,480

Bolton

Tier 2

                                 10,321

           53,477

Bradford

Tier 2

                                 20,938

         104,285

Braintree

Tier 2

                                   2,620

           20,740

Brent

Tier 2

                                   6,536

           51,848

Brentwood

Tier 2

                                   1,077

           16,034

Bromley

Tier 2

                                   5,875

           57,378

Broxtowe

Tier 2

                                   2,140

           15,548

Bury

Tier 2

                                   5,281

           31,368

Calderdale

Tier 2

                                   7,014

           37,871

Camden

Tier 2

                                   7,060

           32,371

Castle Point

Tier 2

                                   1,651

           13,471

Chelmsford

Tier 2

                                   2,802

           29,929

Cheshire East

Tier 2

                                   6,191

           57,837

Cheshire West and Chester

Tier 2

                                   7,514

           54,489

Chesterfield

Tier 2

                                   3,601

           15,650

City of London

Tier 2

                                         28

             2,668

Colchester

Tier 2

                                   3,695

           29,775

County Durham

Tier 2

                                 17,543

           75,876

Croydon

Tier 2

                                 13,426

           65,718

Darlington

Tier 2

                                   3,457

           16,366

Doncaster

Tier 2

                                   9,618

           48,010

Ealing

Tier 2

                                   9,224

           59,761

Elmbridge

Tier 2

                                   1,405

           23,329

Enfield

Tier 2

                                 11,238

           59,631

Epping Forest

Tier 2

                                   1,919

           19,226

Erewash

Tier 2

                                   3,303

           17,349

Gateshead

Tier 2

                                   6,135

           30,300

Gedling

Tier 2

                                   2,589

           18,975

Greenwich

Tier 2

                                   8,960

           48,433

Hackney

Tier 2

                                 11,287

           42,659

Hammersmith and Fulham

Tier 2

                                   4,725

           27,730

Haringey

Tier 2

                                   7,661

           42,670

Harlow

Tier 2

                                   2,501

           15,243

Harrow

Tier 2

                                   4,331

           41,918

Hartlepool

Tier 2

                                   4,738

           15,365

Havering

Tier 2

                                   5,697

           40,868

Part of High Peak*

Tier 2

                                      826

             4,466

Hillingdon

Tier 2

                                   7,951

           57,076

Hounslow

Tier 2

                                   7,674

           47,328

Islington

Tier 2

                                   7,938

           25,581

Kensington and Chelsea

Tier 2

                                   3,255

           25,334

Kingston upon Thames

Tier 2

                                   2,547

           30,411

Kirklees

Tier 2

                                 14,215

           69,600

Lambeth

Tier 2

                                 10,219

           39,456

Leeds

Tier 2

                                 25,488

         131,689

Leicester

Tier 2

                                 11,090

           59,855

Lewisham

Tier 2

                                   7,425

           41,716

Maldon

Tier 2

                                      889

             7,165

Manchester

Tier 2

                                 28,281

           95,478

Mansfield

Tier 2

                                   3,411

           17,779

Merton

Tier 2

                                   5,001

           33,133

Middlesbrough

Tier 2

                                   7,574

           24,986

Newark and Sherwood

Tier 2

                                   2,399

           15,554

Newcastle upon Tyne

Tier 2

                                 13,123

           45,286

Newham

Tier 2

                                 12,654

           65,468

North East Derbyshire

Tier 2

                                   2,100

           13,449

North Tyneside

Tier 2

                                   5,682

           31,264

Northumberland

Tier 2

                                   7,526

           46,127

Nottingham

Tier 2

                                 12,711

           48,235

Oadby and Wigston

Tier 2

                                   1,206

           11,484

Oldham

Tier 2

                                   9,544

           46,283

Redbridge

Tier 2

                                   7,553

           60,836

Redcar and Cleveland

Tier 2

                                   5,004

           21,942

Richmond upon Thames

Tier 2

                                   2,728

           38,711

Rochdale

Tier 2

                                   8,501

           37,472

Rochford

Tier 2

                                   1,275

           12,742

Rotherham

Tier 2

                                   8,727

           45,132

Rushcliffe

Tier 2

                                   1,686

           20,670

Salford

Tier 2

                                   9,940

           41,994

Sandwell

Tier 2

                                 13,915

           61,314

Sheffield

Tier 2

                                 20,435

           85,181

Solihull

Tier 2

                                   6,981

           42,238

South Tyneside

Tier 2

                                  5,617

           22,567

Southwark

Tier 2

                                 11,663

           50,041

Stockport

Tier 2

                                   6,251

           47,581

Stockton-on-Tees

Tier 2

                                   6,520

           33,952

Sunderland

Tier 2

                                   9,986

           41,694

Sutton

Tier 2

                                   4,862

           40,455

Tameside

Tier 2

                                   8,143

           37,157

Tendring

Tier 2

                                   4,070

           19,539

Tower Hamlets

Tier 2

                                 15,223

           48,090

Trafford

Tier 2

                                   4,613

           44,220

Uttlesford

Tier 2

                                      825

           13,336

Wakefield

Tier 2

                                   9,285

           57,330

Walsall

Tier 2

                                 13,220

           52,771

Waltham Forest

Tier 2

                                   7,600

           45,925

Wandsworth

Tier 2

                                   6,761

           44,711

Warrington

Tier 2

                                   5,060

           32,542

Westminster

Tier 2

                                   6,051

           32,212

Wigan

Tier 2

                                   9,362

           48,048

Wolverhampton

Tier 2

                                 13,276

           50,168

York

Tier 2

                                   2,728

           28,311

Tier 2

 

                              777,863

     4,108,689

 

 

 

 

Tier 2 or Tier 3

 

                              876,934

     4,581,303

 

 

 

 

Unknown local authority

Unknown Tier

                                         14

                 170

Source: House of Commons Library analysis.

*Source: Department for Education, Schools, pupils, and their characteristics: Academic Year 2019/20, 21 September 2020

Our comment on tonight's Parliamentary vote on free school meals. Last week, we sent a joint open letter to the Secretary of State for Education on behalf of 35 organisations on this subject.
 
Please do get in touch if you would like any further comment,
 
Thanks,
Barbara
 

In response to the debate in Parliament on Free School Meals, and the defeat of the motion to extend holiday support until Easter 2021, Children's Food Campaign Co-ordinator Barbara Crowther says:

“We are profoundly dismayed that Parliament has rejected the motion to provide food support to vulnerable children during forthcoming school holidays. We thank all the MPs who spoke up for children today. We had hoped Parliament would unite, as this is not the time for children living in food insecurity to be used as political footballs. Our campaign has the support of directors of public health, head teachers, children’s organisations, food networks, school caterers and national education unions, as well as hundreds of thousands of parents, young people and teachers. We will not give up campaigning for all children’s rights to food. We hope the Government will reconsider and make its own decision now to unite with Wales and Scotland in supporting children through to Easter 2021, as well as move to adopt the longer term recommendations in the National Food Strategy.”

 
 
 
 
 
Barbara Crowther
Coordinator, Children's Food Campaign

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If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

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