Hackney Council steps in to back Marcus Rashford campaign after government votes against free school meal holiday extension

Hackney Town Hall entrance. Picture: Hackney Council

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Hackney Council is supporting footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to ensure no child goes hungry this half term, following the government’s failure to fund free school meal vouchers during the holiday.

The Manchester United striker’s End Child Food Poverty campaign called for an extension to free school meals - but a motion to provide 1.4 million disadvantaged children in England with £15-a-week food vouchers during school holidays throughout the coronavirus pandemic until Easter 2021 was voted down in Parliament this week.

Families of the 11,000 pupils in Hackney who are eligible for free school meals, and who need emergency support, will instead now be able to call a council helpline to access vouchers and the council will support schools delivering their own crisis programmes.

Deputy mayor of Hackney, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, said: “I am appalled at the government’s failure to recognise the hardship that many families face this half term following the inspirational campaign of Marcus Rashford.

“That’s why Hackney Council will step in where the government has stepped out.

“In one of the richest countries in the world, it’s simply unacceptable that any child should go hungry and we’re determined not to let that happen next week.

“Whether it’s through our helpline or their school, parents will get the support they need during the holidays.”

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She added: “Ministers have had seven months to ensure a comprehensive package of help was in place for families struggling to make ends meet due to the impact of coronavirus. They have failed.

“They must act now to ensure that no family endures a Christmas with no food in the cupboards.”

Mayor Philip Glanville and Deputy Mayor Bramble wrote to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson in April to demand clarity about what provision would be put in place during school holidays throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The council has long worked with local food charities and organisations to ensure vulnerable families get support during the school holidays, including provision of vouchers to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.

In 2018, the council also agreed to fund free school meals for children in migrant and refugee families with No Recourse to Public Funds ? a status that usually makes them ineligible for government support.

Families whose child is normally eligible for free school meals and who are struggling this half term should contact the council on 020 8356 3000.