The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has called on the government to reconsider its position on free school meals, following a campaign by the footballer Marcus Rashford.
Earlier this week, MPs rejected a Labour call to make free school meals available outside term time for the next six months, including over the Christmas and Easter holidays with 261 MPs voting for and 322 voting against.
Following the defeat in parliament, several local authorities have announced they will provide free meals or vouchers.
The mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson has today (23 October) become the latest to announce the city council will provide food vouchers for around 20,000 children on free school meals over the half term holiday next week.
The £15 supermarket vouchers will be distributed through the city’s network of children’s centres from next Tuesday, in the same way they were during lockdown.
But in a statement, the BASW warned that if the fovernment does not take action to alleviate some of the pressures on the poorest families, already-stretched parents on low incomes and insufficient support ‘will be forced to choose between heating and eating’.
‘In June, BASW urged the government to continue to provide school meals over the summer, and we now urge the government to reconsider their position and give low income families the support that they need,’ the statement adds.
‘The impact of poverty on parenting is well known. Children who are in poverty are significantly more likely to be in the care of the state. The huge majority of parents in poverty parent well, but for those parents who are struggling, poverty makes their task of parenting much, much harder.
‘It is especially disappointing that the children’s minister who will be aware of the hardship many children are facing through no fault of their own also voted against this motion. As there were some members of the government’s own party who voted for the motion, this proves that this is not a partisan issue, and that ensuring children are healthy and happy is a government responsibility.’
The mayor of Doncaster, Ros Jones said she also wanted to ensure that children and parents and carers who needed additional support over the half term holiday were given it, regardless of the national situation.
‘So I have agreed that free school meal vouchers will continue over the holidays and the council will fund it. We have been in touch with schools to organise this at some pace,’ said Ms Jones.
The Doncaster voucher for £15 per child per week is available for children aged four and upwards who attend schools in the borough. Schools are contacting eligible families to arrange.
Photo Credit – Katrina_S (Pixabay)