Earlier this week Boris Johnson and his Tory government voted against feeding the thousands of children on free school meals over half term. Despite the fantastic campaign of Marcus Rashford and the efforts of the Labour party in Parliament, the Tories ignored the real impact that this will have on so many poor families and instead sneered about celebrity campaigns and “dependency”. Since the Tories have chosen not to step in and stop children going hungry, Lambeth Labour are stepping in to help end food poverty and make sure our boroughs children don’t go hungry over half term.
The emergency scheme announced today will feed the more than 10,000 children across Lambeth who currently access free school meals during term time. Our schools provide a vital safety net for many struggling families, but we know that gaps remain in that safety net in particular during school holidays. Levels of poverty are only increasing due to the economic hardship of the Covid-19 pandemic and now is the time for us all to recognise the need for compassion and support for all.
Lambeth is used to plugging the gaps left by this Tory government: Running holiday hunger programmes through the summer so that children can have a healthy meal and free and fun activities. We will act to support Lambeth families and correct government failures, but we desperately need a Labour government who will tackle this on a national scale so programmes like ours are no longer needed.
This wasn’t a difficult choice to make but it won’t make Lambeth’s financial challenge any easier, because time and again on PPE, food delivery for vulnerable people or business support, Lambeth has had to step in to fill the gaps left by the government in support during the Covid-19 pandemic. We’re facing a significant financial gap of at least £10 million this year alone as a result – and with the government abandoning its plans for the spending review we have little certainty of what our finances will be going forward.
Cllr Jack Hopkins, Leader of Lambeth Council said:
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more brazen example of this government’s ideological indifference to poverty and the realities of life for so many families in this country – and few things have ever made me more angry.
But anger won’t ensure that families next week don’t have to choose between paying their bills and feeding their kids. So, I’m proud that Lambeth council is stepping up where the government has failed and will provide free school meals to all school children in the borough who need them during next week’s half term.”
Cllr Ed Davie, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said:
“I’m proud of the action Lambeth has already taken to address child poverty, including our Holiday Hunger programme, but it is deeply frustrating because this provision shouldn’t be necessary. Families wouldn’t need this additional support if this Tory government stepped up, did their duty, and properly supported the people of this country.
Politics too often complicates that which is really quite simple. Too many families struggle to feed their children – and we will ensure that they get the help they need to do that.”