Boris Johnson has rejected Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford’s heartfelt plea to provide children in poverty with meals over the summer holidays.
The Manchester United striker had written an emotional letter to MPs today asking them to reconsider the decision to prevent poor children receiving free school meals into the summer holidays.
The vouchers, introduced during the COVID-19 lockdown measures, are worth £15 per week, and are provided to families from poorer backgrounds to help provide food for their children.
“The Government has taken a ‘whatever it takes’ approach to the economy – I’m asking you today to extend that same thinking to protecting all vulnerable children across England,” Rashford wrote in the letter.
“I encourage you to hear their pleas and find your humanity.
“Please reconsider your decision to cancel the food voucher scheme over the Summer holiday period and guarantee the extension.”
Rashford also shared in the letter that he himself grew up in child poverty, and relied on free school meals to get by.
He described how he could have “been just another statistic”, and wrote “I would be doing myself, my family and my community an injustice if I didn’t stand here today with my voice and my platform and ask you for help.”
The Prime Minister’s spokesman responded to the letter stating “The PM understands the issues facing families across the UK which is why last week the government announced an additional £63m for local authorities to benefit families who are struggling to afford food and other basic essentials.”
However, Labour has warned that the funding will not cover the £115m cost of providing free school meals.
This evening Rashford hit back by taking to Twitter, writing “We aren’t beaten yet, stand strong for the 200,000 children who haven’t had a meal to eat today and keep retweeting #maketheUturn”.
Shadow Education Secretary, Rebecca Long Bailey, also took to Twitter today to express her concerns.
“The Govt need to make a U-turn on the decision to end free school meals during the summer, and ensure children have a summer holiday without hunger,” she wrote.
These developments come after the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, earlier this month described the decision to cancel the voucher scheme over the summer holidays as “short-sighted” and appearing “uncaring and lacking compassion” in a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
The move to stop the free school meals into the summer holidays is set to affect 1.3 million children across the UK, after new figures have suggested COVID-19 has already sent 300,000 children into poverty.
Child poverty is a serious issue in the UK, with around 30% of children living in poverty between 2018-2019, and 45% of all children in poverty in England from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
Main image courtesy of BBC Breakfast, with thanks.