Labour has given the government 72 hours to extend the provision of free school meals until the Spring – or face a Commons vote.
The October half term comes as millions of families face a furlough cliff-edge that could see jobs across the country at risk, at the same time as millions of families face tighter restrictions.
Across the North West there are 226,965 children who receive free school meals, who will lose out on this support over the holidays if the government do not urgently extend it.
The coronavirus pandemic has been particularly challenging for parents, who were almost twice as likely to be furloughed as workers without children. The government’s new Job Support Scheme has substantial holes in it, which, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), means 1.8 million jobs remain at risk.
Labour’s call follows mounting pressure on the government from Marcus Rashford’s campaign, and the announcement that the Welsh Government will extend free school meals over the holidays for children in Wales. A petition including a call to expand access to free school meals over the holiday attracted more than 100,000 signatures in less than a day.
There are more than 1.44 million children across the country who are eligible for free school meals, growing up in families in receipt of certain legacy benefits, or Universal Credit below a set income threshold.
Extending free school meals to school holidays until Spring would see the equivalent of £15 in additional support to the families of over 1.4 million children in every week of the school holidays, including October half term and Christmas.
Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Kate Green MP, said:
“Millions of families face the prospect of losing their livelihoods because the government has lost control of the virus.
“It’s sink-or-swim plans for support could leave more than one million children at risk of going hungry over the school holidays.
“Now is the time to act. Labour will not stand by and let families be the victims of the government’s incompetence. If Boris Johnson doesn’t change course, we will force a vote this week and give his backbenchers the chance to do the right thing.”