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There is still time for action on child hunger
21st October 2020
Transforming Lives for Good (TLG)'s statement in response to today's debate and vote in the House of Commons on holiday provision for children on Free School Meals.
We join others in expressing our sincere disappointment that, this evening, MPs voted down an important motion calling for holiday provision for children on Free School Meals over the upcoming holidays.
The wording of the motion was:
That this House calls on the Government to continue directly funding provision of free school meals over the school holidays until Easter 2021 to prevent over a million children going hungry during this crisis.
We are grateful for the hard work of cross-party MPs who continue to work on this issue and those who did vote for this provision.
Despite the vote not passing, Opposition Day votes are not binding so it is still within the power of the Government to commit to holiday provision for children over the coming holidays. With cross-party MPs, many charities and individuals behind this, including the more than 300,000 people who have signed the petition started by Marcus Rashford MBE, there is clear public will for this.
No one can deny there is not a convincing case for it either.
With UK destitution projected to double by Christmas unless action is taken (Trussell Trust, 2020), there are increasing numbers of families facing severe food insecurity over winter as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of these families, the hot and healthy meal their child receives through the Free School Meal provision may be the only meal they receive that day.
But when the term stops, that provision will stop.
Before the pandemic, three million children were at risk of hunger in the holidays (Feeding Britain, 2017). That number is expected to have sky rocketed. Action must be taken if we are to prevent a hunger crisis gripping children across the UK.
The Government must commit urgently to holiday provision up to and including Easter 2021, joining other similar commitments from the Welsh and Scottish governments to extend holiday provision for children on Free School Meals.
TLG joins others in also calling for the Government to commit to reviewing how holiday provision can become a permanent policy that reaches every child in poverty and what such provision would look like in order to achieve this.
The current Holidays, Activities and Food Programme (HAF), while a welcome provision, is not enough. It is not reaching even a fraction of the children in need of help.
It is simply not right to ignore a move that will help feed many hungry children across our country.
The Government must act now, as part of an expansive response that offers a safety net for all families suddenly thrown into poverty by the COVID-19 crisis.
As a charity, we will continue to support these families through our TLG Make Lunch Clubs and our ‘Box of Hope’ initiative – equipping local churches to personally respond to the needs of families on their doorsteps by providing emergency food and welfare parcels. So far nearly 200 church partners have provided over 437,000 equivalent meals to children and their families. You can find out more about TLG's Box of Hope project here.
Commenting on today’s events, Tim Morfin, Founder and Chief Executive of TLG, said:
“We are grateful to the MPs who today voted for holiday provision for children on Free School Meals. However, we are concerned that the vote did not pass and the Government have not yet committed to this. It is vital they do so urgently. At a time where many families are facing an uncertain future, holiday provision for children on Free School Meals will lift some of that burden of anxiety that comes with food insecurity.
We also call upon the Government to continue to look into what they can do to alleviate the impact of financial insecurity, including making the temporary £20 increase to Universal Credit permanent.
TLG will continue to do all we can to stand up for struggling children and families across the UK in order that no child should go hungry.”
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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.