Column: Free School Meals and children's education

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 22nd January:

Many of you, like me, will be appalled by the shocking scenes we saw of food parcels being delivered to families up and down the country where, in some cases, there was barely enough food for a couple of days, let alone a week.

This week, Labour MPs in parliament demanded the government give families the support they need while schools and colleges are closed to most pupils for the duration of the current lockdown. Free school meals provide a vital service to children whose parents simply cannot afford to feed them during the day, and a lifeline to those parents who are already struggling to make ends meet.

The intervention in parliament follows news that the government will not be providing Free School Meals funding during February half-term, leaving 1.4 million children nationally at risk from going hungry that week.

This equates to 3,251 children across Barnsley East at risk of going hungry, which is a disgrace. Providing a healthy lunch for 1.4 million children shouldn’t even be something we have to debate. Ensuring that our youth are well fed should be a basic human right in one of the world’s leading global economies.

The Labour Party has also called on the government to guarantee that all eligible children receive the full value of free school meals during this school year, including during all holidays. To enable this, the government should set-up cash payments so parents can choose the spend the £15 free school meal funding on the food and supplies that are right for their children.

Children’s education is being further put at risk by the government’s failure to provide the laptops and digital access needed for remote learning. The government missed its target for delivering laptops and tablets to pupils in the first lockdown. Two weeks into this third lockdown with 600,000 promised laptops yet to be delivered to schools, and 58,800 of the government’s promised laptops still have not been delivered to children across Yorkshire and the Humber. This is an issue I have raised in parliament previously and will continue to raise in the future.

Once again, this government is letting down our children, and denying them the education and nutrition that should be their right, not a privilege.

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  • Stephanie Peacock
    published this page in What I'm up to 2021-01-25 12:27:49 +0000