Trish and Richard were delighted that Sutton Council ensured children did not go hungry over the school winter holiday period by providing support for families whose children go to Sutton schools and are eligible for Free School Meals.
The provision followed on from the scheme developed for the October half term, but supported a much wider group of children, young people and families, including:
- children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 registered to receive free school meals at the school they attend.
- children in Year 3 onwards from low income families receiving benefits (Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance, Employment Support, Child Tax Credits, Universal Credit and some other benefits).
- children aged 2 and receiving the free childcare entitlement.
- children aged 3 and 4 attending an early years setting and receiving the Early Years Pupil Premium.
Parents/carers of children that are registered for free school meals at their school did not need to apply – their school (whether in the London Borough of Sutton or in another Local Authority area) distributed vouchers to eligible families directly. This applied for the vast majority of pupils eligible for the voucher.
At half-term, during the autumn term, Richard and Trish were horrified that the Conservative Government refused to back Free School Meals for hungry children during the half term break. Liberal Democrat-run Sutton Council stepped in to provide Free School Meals for local children during the holidays. This new scheme, over the Christmas holidays, follows on from that earlier provision.
Footballer Marcus Rashford has spearheaded the campaign that brought national attention to children living in food poverty.
We are disappointed that our local Conservative MP Paul Scully refused to support Free School Meals. Paul Scully callously dismissed Free School Meals on live television, claiming “Children have been going hungry under a Labour government for years”.
Local councils are under huge financial pressure across the country, with the Government only providing half the funding required to support additional COVID-19 related services. It was not true that the Council was funded to provide free school meals at half term. That funding was received back in July for families who needed extra support and had to be allocated within twelve weeks. It wasn’t nearly enough at the time and it certainly wasn’t intended to cover the cost of feeding hungry school children at half term in October. However, the Liberal Democrats in Sutton were determined to ensure no child went hungry.