MPs are set to vote tomorrow on free meals for children in Birmingham
MPs will vote tomorrow on proposals to give 61,000 Birmingham children free meals during school holidays.
Labour is proposing that a free meal scheme introduced during the national lockdown earlier this year is extended until at least Easter, which would mean it covers half term and the Christmas break.
The measure was originally introduced to help families while schools were closed. Families with children eligible for free school meals, including 61,000 in Birmingham and 191,280 in the West Midlands region, were provided with vouchers to pay for food.
Parents received vouchers worth £15 per child per week, which they can spend in supermarkets.
The scheme was originally due to end when the summer holidays began in mid-July, but has already been extended once following a campaign by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford and protests from some Conservative MPs as well as Labour.
he Government has so far resisted pressure to continue the scheme, arguing that free school meals have always been provided during term time and are not meant to provide food during holidays.
A Government Minister said parents on low incomes have received an increase in Universal Credit payments.
Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’ve put over £9 billion into Universal Credit to help exactly those families that need that help and we continue with the policy of holiday clubs.”
The Business Minister said research from a pilot scheme “demonstrates that families didn’t just want the meals, although they valued the meals, they didn’t like the labelling of them being free, they actually prefer to pay a modest amount, £1 or £2, but they valued the additional focus on exercise and on reading fun books and so on through the holiday”.
Labour MP Jack Dromey said: “Erdington may be rich in talent but it one of the poorest constituencies in England. In Birmingham, four in ten children are growing up in poverty. The simple and sad reality is that if the Government ended free school meals, children would go hungry over Christmas.
“Free school meals for children in holiday periods was born out of the Covid crisis but must now continue. There is a moral crisis to ensure no child wakes up or goes to bed hungry.”