Saffron Walden MP says critics have ‘politicised’ the free school meals policy

PUBLISHED: 09:01 28 October 2020 | UPDATED: 09:03 28 October 2020

Kemi Badenoch MP. Picture: Kemi Badenoch

Kemi Badenoch MP. Picture: Kemi Badenoch

Kemi Badenoch

The Saffron Walden MP has slammed critics of the government’s school meals policy, saying it is “disgraceful some had chosen to politicise such an important matter”.

Last week, Labour called on the government to extend a national scheme to provide 1.5m children with food vouchers during holidays until Easter 2021.

The House of Commons debate over providing free school meals over the school holidays was voted down by 322 to 261 votes.

Kemi Badenoch was among the MPs who voted ‘no’.

Mrs Badenoch said it was “shameful” that some people had chosen to exploit vulnerable families for their own personal gain.

“Despite the malevolent insinuations made by opposition members and headlines on various news outlets, Tory MPs did not vote to take free schools meals from children.

“It is heartening to see so many businesses offering to help families, however it must be stressed that this is in addition to government support and not instead of it.

“The Government chose to support vulnerable families by funding councils directly instead of using vouchers which can often be stigmatising. Councils know their communities best.”

Mrs Badenoch said that in June, the government allocated councils an additional £63m as part of a welfare assistance fund to ensure they were able to help those struggling financially as a result of the coronavirus crisis including those on free school meals.

Mrs Badenoch said Essex County Council received more than £1.4m of this to distribute locally.

She added: “That money was to last till the end of the October and already covered the half-term period.

“Since the start of the pandemic Essex County Council has received over £127m directly in additional funding, and last week the Government announced a further £1billion of additional support for councils to help local people and Essex received over £11.7m of this.

“There are many ways to support vulnerable children and families. Free school meal vouchers are just one of them and they don’t always target those most in need.”

* Footballer Marcus Rashford MBE’s petition on the website to end child food poverty, stating that no child should go hungry, has attracted nearly 1m signatures.

Parliament considers all petitions that raise 100,000 signatures for debate. It is considered separately to Opposition debates.

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