Poor families left to ‘fend for themselves’ by Government, claims senior Leeds politician

A senior Leeds Councillor has said the Government is allowing 25,000 children in Leeds to go hungry during the October school holidays.

Friday, 16th October 2020, 2:19 pm
Updated Friday, 16th October 2020, 2:22 pm

It follows Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s refusal to commit the Government to providing free school meals during the October half term and Christmas holidays, after a similar scheme was in place during the summer.

Leeds City Council’s executive member for learning Jonathan Pryor said the Government was leaving many local parents to “fend for themselves” with no support.

A Government spokesperson said it had provided tens of millions of pounds to help parents make ends meet during the pandemic.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

No free school meals in October half term.

The Local Government Association Labour Group claims more than 25,488 children in Leeds face half term with increased lockdown restrictions but without free school meals.

Government bowed to pressure to provide free school meals to children throughout the holidays, following a high-profile campaign from Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford, yet ministers have still not committed to providing free school meals this half term.

Coun Jonathan Pryor, said: “Children in Leeds have had a really rough year – this incompetent Government should be supporting them, not leaving them to go hungry.

“We can all feel how much the new lockdown restrictions are affecting our lives – and that’s making it much harder for families to earn a living and put food on the table. It is utterly ridiculous that at a time when we should all be pulling together – this Government is leaving local parents to fend for themselves.

“Ministers have been too slow at every stage during this crisis. So instead of waiting to the last minute they should act now and keep free school meals going through half-term – they should stand by local families just like we have stood with the rest of the country in fighting this terrible disease.”

Of the 1.44m currently on Free School Meals in England, 456,738 face a half term with increased lockdown restrictions but without free school meals.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have taken substantial action to make sure children and families do not go hungry by extending free school meals when schools closed, increasing welfare support by £9.3bn, and giving councils £63m to provide emergency support to families for food and other essentials.

“We also appreciate it has been a challenging time for families, which is why we have increased the safety net available to them with income protection schemes, mortgage holidays and support for renters.”