Lib Dems ensure free school meals in half term after Tories fail hungry children

Following the Conservative Government's shameful refusal to ensure the capital's most vulnerable children will be fed over the half term holiday, Lib Dem-run Richmond council has stepped up to the plate.

The Council is developing a COVID-19 half term food support package for vulnerable children, meaning that children from the borough’s lowest income families don’t go hungry over the schools’ break. Liberal Democrat councils in Kingston and Sutton are also setting up schemes. 

Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council said: "It beggars belief that the Conservative Government have failed to address this issue. Hard pressed local councils have already suffered millions of pounds in cuts but we will always do the right thing when it comes to vulnerable children and their families. I am pleased that we are able to set aside funding here in Richmond that will protect those who are struggling and in need of help through no fault of their own."

Achieving for Children will run a food voucher scheme to address the pressing issue of local hard-pressed and vulnerable families in the borough not being able to cover the cost of meals during the school holiday.

Guidance will be launched early next week to let eligible families know how they can collect their voucher.

Tory MPs last week voted down a plan to feed more than 1.4 million children during school breaks until Easter next year. 

Cllr Robin Brown, Finance and Resources Lead Member for Richmond Council, said: “In these unprecedented times, I am very concerned to be doing all we can to help lower income families and their children who are really struggling due to the impact of the virus.

“Yet again hard-pressed local authorities are coming to the rescue. We have happily set aside the funding that’s needed to ensure children from some of our poorest families don’t go hungry this half term, and we will also look to extend the scheme over the Christmas period.”

Nationally, the Liberal Democrats are calling for:

  • Free school meals to every pupil whose parents or guardians are in receipt of Universal Credit
  • Food vouchers for every one of those pupils in every school holiday and during any period of lockdown
  • Free school meals to pupils from low-income families whose parents or guardians have no recourse to public funds and destitute asylum seekers

Sign the petition here

Cllr Luisa Porritt, Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London said: “I'm so proud that every Lib Dem-run council in London has stepped up to provide extra support to the most vulnerable children in their boroughs. Alongside other councils, thousands of small businesses and many community-led organisations across the city, they have stepped up where the Conservative Government has failed them so that together, we will make sure that no child goes hungry.

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey, right, with London mayoral candidate Luisa Porritt, centre, on a recent visit to The Real Junk Food Project in Twickenham. The Real Junk Food Project collects food from local shops destined for landfill, and with the help of its volunteers, turns it into delicious, healthy meals to serve to the community on a 'Pay As You Feel' basis

“London has the second highest percentage of children in need of Free School Meals in England. Those families are facing the greatest hardship during this pandemic. The Government's failure to support them is a dereliction of duty at a time of national crisis.

“Marcus Rashford has inspired an outpouring of generosity, proving that in his words “the superstars of this nation lie in local communities”. I’m proud that Londoners have lived up to our long history of standing together in tough times.”

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