Marcus Rashford: U-turn on free school meals

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June 16, 2020

Free school meals will be provided to around 1.3 million children during the summer holidays sparked by a campaign from Marcus Rashford.

Food vouchers – for £15 a week – will be made available to those children in England who are currently eligible for the scheme, and will last for six weeks in what has been called a “Covid Summer Food Fund”.

Marcus Rashford writes an emotional letter to government pleading for them to ‘protect the vulnerable’

” I understand children and parents face unprecedented situations” during the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said. The spokesman added Mr Johnson welcomed Rashford’s “contribution to the debate around poverty and respects he’s been using his profile as a leading sportsman to highlight important issues”.

The Department for Education had initially said it would not extend the voucher scheme despite an emotional letter to MPs written by Rashford, in which he said “the system isn’t built for families like mine to succeed”.

But the government has changed tact after Manchester United striker Rashford kept up his campaign.

“I don’t even know what to say. Just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020,” Marcus Rashford.

He kept up the pressure for a second day – sparking a tetchy exchange with Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey on the social media site.

Rashford had already won the backing of Labour and two senior Tory MPs – Robert Halfon, chair of the Commons’ education select committee, and George Freeman, a former head of the Downing Street policy unit.

The extra support will cost around £120m – in addition to £63m already pledged for councils to help families and kids over the summer holidays. Labour called it a welcome move and “victory for the 1.3 million children who were at risk of going hungry this summer”.

Shadow education secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said: “It is thanks to the amazing work of Marcus Rashford and campaigners that the government has had no choice but to reverse their decision. The government must now confirm that this new money will be for the direct provision of free school meals to all eligible children.”

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