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MPs vote to #KeepTheLifeline – it’s time for the Government to act

MPs vote to #KeepTheLifeline – it’s time for the Government to act

18th January 2021

Today, MPs voted for two important motions. 

The first of these called for an extension to the £20 Universal Credit uplift. The second of which called for holiday provision for children on Free School Meals and to ensure that every child without digital access is given the resources they need to continue their remote education. 

We were pleased to see the two votes on these important issues pass and are grateful to the many cross-party MPs who voted for the motions and who spoke in support of the motions during the debate. 

However, Opposition Day Motions are not binding, so while this was a big win, the campaign goes on. 

TLG, along with many other organisations and MPs from across parties, is calling on the Government to enact on today’s votes. We want to see a commitment to: 

> Extend the temporary £20 Universal Credit uplift, due to end in April, and to announce it now – not make millions of people wait in uncertainty any longer.

> A permanent and comprehensive holiday provision policy that ensures children on Free School Meals do not go hungry during the holidays.

> An urgent, wider rollout of laptops and broadband provision, on top of what has already happened, to ensure that EVERY child who needs digital access to continue their education has that access.

Why should the uplift be extended? 

There are 5.7 million people on Universal Credit, with 3.6 million starts (the number of new claimants) to Universal Credit since March 2020, the month where COVID-19 restrictions were first implemented (Department for Work and Pensions, 2020). With unemployment projected to peak at 2.6 million later this year, these figures will continue to rise. Taking away the £20 uplift would mean taking away additional support from millions of families already struggling, many of whom will have already suffered unemployment and lost wages this year.  

With continued restrictions and the added costs of lockdown and school closures (including food and utilities), it is critical these families keep the added support and are told so now, rather than facing weeks of uncertainty. Similarly, those on Legacy Benefits have so far missed out on this uplift, when they need it every bit as much as those who have received it, so it is urgent the Government immediately includes them in this uplift. 

Why should holiday provision be made a permanent policy? 

As a charity working on the frontline to support families facing food insecurity through TLG Make Lunch and TLG Box of Hope, we know first-hand that Free School Meals are a lifeline to children who should not have to go hungry. For many children in poverty, this may be the only meal they eat that day. However, when term-time ends so does that provision. It is critical that holiday provision is made a permanent and comprehensive policy, to ensure children are not left at risk of hunger during the school holidays. 

It has long been accepted that there is a clear link between a child going hungry and the negative effect on their education. Research shows that it contributes to learning loss over the school holidays. While more than two-thirds of non-disadvantaged children achieved grade 4 or higher in maths and English, just 36% of those eligible for Free School Meals did so. (Department for Education 2020). 79% of teachers surveyed in schools with above-average levels of disadvantage also think that hunger will harm efforts to catch children up on the learning they missed out on during school closures (Magic Breakfast 2020). Ensuring a child receives the nutrition they need during the school holidays is vital to stop the widening educational disadvantage gap. 

Why should the Government be spending money on laptops?  

Home schooling is harder for those with limited access to physical resources, particularly those who have limited or no digital access. Those children without access are at risk of falling seriously behind their peers, without yet having had chance to catch up after the first school closures. If laptops and broadband are not distributed urgently to those without access, the educational disadvantage gap will widen to devastating levels. The Government’s laptop and broadband pledges must be honoured and programmes rapidly expanded to reach every child without digital access, to stop a generation of children losing out on their education throughout no fault of their own. 

Unprecedented times require unprecedented measures if we are to prevent a generation of children growing up without proper nutrition, without full access to their education and full of the anxiety that comes with knowing your parents are struggling to make ends meet. The Government must commit NOW to the measures that were voted on today. 

The costs of spending during COVID-19 will need to one day be recovered, but with unemployment projected to rise to 2.6 million people later this year and food insecurity on the increase, now is NOT the time to withdraw that critical support. As restrictions continue and the economic and educational impact of the pandemic likely to be felt for years to come, the support too must go on. 

Beth Prescott

Beth Prescott

Before coming to TLG, Beth worked as a Fundraising Project Manager for poverty-relief charity Christians Against Poverty. Beth also has experience in the political sector, having worked for a Government Minister. She was one of the youngest Parliamentary candidates in the country in the 2015 and 2017 General Elections, narrowly missing out on a seat in Parliament in 2017. Beth is a season ticket holder at Huddersfield Town and enjoys hiking through the Yorkshire countryside followed by a local ale in the pub.

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