Cllr Scott Dickinson fights for free school meals
Cllr Scott Dickinson fights for free school meals

New analysis by LGA Labour reveals that more than 7526 children in Northumberland,

face half term with increased lockdown restrictions but without Free School Meals.

The greater lockdown restrictions, in addition to high unemployment and the millions on furlough will make things even harder for struggling parents as sectors such as leisure and hospitality are forced to remain closed or operate with a skeleton staff.

In the summer, Government bowed to pressure to provide free school meals to children throughout the holidays, yet ministers have refused to commit to providing Free School Meals this half term. Today, Cllr Scott Dickinson is calling on the government to protect all 1.4million children through half term – and demanding Tory MP Anne Marie Trevelyan in the so-called ‘red wall’ insist that they do.

The new analysis reveals:

  • 7526 children in Northumberland are currently on Free School Meals
  • Of the 1.44m currently on Free School Meals in England, 456,738 (32%) face a half term with increased lockdown restrictions but without Free School Meals. Government has repeatedly warned that lockdown restrictions could be extended in coming days – creating more uncertainty for families across the country – so this figure could well rise further
  • Two thirds of people in the North East of England are living under increased restrictions – 78,000 children on Free School Meals and under lockdown restrictions in that region alone. More than 200,000 children in the North West face that double whammy, 95,000 in the West Midlands and 67,000 in Yorkshire and Humber
  • Providing free school meals for 1.44m children across half term would cost just £22m – less than half cost of the Government’s wasted £50m ferry contracts

Publishing the figures Cllr Scott Dickinson said, 

“Children in Northumberland have had a really rough year – this incompetent government should be supporting them, not leaving them to go hungry.   

“We can all feel how much the new lockdown restriction are affecting our lives – and that’s making it much harder for families to earn a living and put food on the table. It is utterly ridiculous that at a time when we should all be pulling together this government is leaving local parents to fend for themselves. 

 “Ministers have been too slow at every stage during this crisis. So instead of waiting to the last minute they should act now and keep free school meals going through half-term – they should stand by local families just like we have stood with the rest of the country in fighting this terrible disease.” 

“It’s time for Anne Marie Trevelyan to put this community ahead of her career and back our campaign –  Northumberland children must not go hungry this half-term.” 

The analysis follows a range of dire statistics and research revealing just how hard things are for struggling families:

  • Child Poverty Action Group research which reveals Coronavirus has left low-income families struggling with a significant deterioration in living standards
    • 8 in 10 hard-up families said they were financially worse off as a result of the pandemic
    • Parents worry about not meeting children’s needs – “I feel like a bad parent at the minute”
    • 48% have a new or worse debt problem
    • 46% have taken on extra caring responsibilities
  • Latest figures reveal almost 10% of the workforce is still furloughed, and 1.4 million are unemployed
  • GDP has fallen more than 10% since the start of the crisis

Publishing the analysis, LGA Labour’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Michael Payne said,

“We must not let children go hungry because of Coronavirus. Under this government 450,000 face a half term under enhanced lockdown restrictions but without Free School Meals – and that number could easily rise as restrictions are extended further. 

“All across the country, millions have lost their jobs or been furloughed, businesses are going under and everyone is finding things hard – 8 out of 10 families feel worse off thanks to the pandemic. The economy is in dire straits and new restrictions will make it even harder to make ends meet.

“Children on free school meals shouldn’t pay the price for this crisis – they need to know they won’t go hungry in half term. If Ministers can afford to waste millions on ferries to nowhere and faulty masks they can afford to protect our kids. New Tory MPs in the North and Midlands must now stand up for their constituents and demand that the Government protects these children. 

“Ultimately, we need a proper solution that protects these families from the worst of the economic storm to come. But right now, Free School Meals must be extended through the holidays.”


Notes to Editors:

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