Government decision not to fund free school meals a ‘disgrace’

Hounslow Council’s Lead Member for education has labelled as a ‘disgrace’ the Government’s decision not to fund free school meals during half-term.

During the Easter Break in April, free school meals were funded as many vulnerable children or those of key workers were still attending schools, and it was also recognised many low-income families were struggling to afford to pay for meals at home due to the impact of coronavirus. However, the Government has decided that it will not cover the cost over this half-term.

In a letter to the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson MP, Cllr Tom Bruce, Hounslow’s Cabinet Member for Education, Youth and Children’s Services, said:

“Despite my perhaps naïve assumption, I was dismayed to learn your Department has chosen not to support children receiving a good meal. This is nothing short of a disgrace, particularly at a time when so many families are struggling financially.

“In Hounslow we have more and more families who are not working or have lost their job during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, child poverty is on the increase and for many a free school meal may be the only meal that they receive that day.

“This leaves Hounslow, and councils up and down the county, having to choose between using our own ever reducing funds, asking schools to front the cost from their declining budgets or leaving the most vulnerable young people in our community without a meal.

“I have taken the only morally right decision and the Council will be paying for this from its budget, at a cost of £75,000. Ministerial pledges to do whatever it takes to support councils and communities through this pandemic appear increasingly hollow.”

Cllr Bruce also called for clarity over the qualification criteria for free school meals next month; what schools will be expected to do over the summer break; and support for families impacted by Transport for London’s proposal to remove free travel for children.

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See also: Tentative return to school

See also: When are the schools going back?