Statement on Free School Meals Debate

I’ve seen a number of comments in the media and on social media over the past few days to say the vote on extending Free School meal provision is somehow leaving kids starving or that I don’t care about children. That is totally inaccurate.

To say that I don’t care is frankly insulting. 

The Government is doing a lot to help the most vulnerable children, including expanding Free School Meals, introducing breakfast clubs, they have increased school budgets and made the welfare system more generous, including increasing Universal Credit payments during Covid. 

The Government also ensured that children even normally eligible for FSM who were not at school during the pandemic continued to receive Free School Meals. They have also introduced a ‘Covid Summer Food Fund’ which provides food vouchers covering the six-week summer holiday period, paying them £90 for use in supermarkets for the summer period.  So as you can see, the Government is doing a lot to tackle the problem you mention. 

However, I think most people understand that the responsibility for feeding children is fundamentally the role of a parent, which has always been the case across our history and in civilised societies across the world. 

To do this, we need to ensure childhood poverty is eradicated by getting more people into work and earning a salary, (pre-pandemic, we had the highest number of people in employment ever in our history), making sure they keep more of the money they earn (anyone earning under £12,500 doesn’t pay any tax now) and people have the skills they need to go for the jobs they want to improve their lives (We’ve launched an Opportunity Guarantee, so that every young person has the chance of an apprenticeship or an in-work placement, and the Lifetime Skills Guarantee to help people train or retrain at any point in their career, young or old).

Unfortunately, a never-ending succession of freebies are just a sticking plaster over a bigger problem, and sticking plasters are not a solution. By the measures we’ve taken in the short-term and tackling the root causes of child poverty in the long term, we can make sure no child should go hungry.

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