Earlier this month Marcus Rashford followed up his successful campaign for the Government to extend Free School Meals over the summer holidays with another amazing initiative – partnering up with some of the UK’s largest food brands/companies including Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Deliveroo, FareShare, Food Foundation, Iceland, Kellogg’s, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose.
The formation of this new taskforce outlined several key outcomes that this new initiative aimed to achieve with help from the Government, including:
- Free School Meals to be made available for every child in a household that is in receipt of universal credit.
- A long-term vision to extend Free School Meals in School Holidays to support all children who rely on them and not only those that meet the current eligibility criteria.
Aratrust welcomes this initiative and thanks Marcus Rashford wholeheartedly for his support in raising awareness for such an important cause that seemed to fall under the radar during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A few days ago, Marcus received a letter from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, who said the Government was committed to supporting those in need but did not fully back Marcus’s Child Food Poverty taskforce.
According to the BBC, the Education Secretary highlighted existing Government schemes to combat food poverty, including food parcels, voucher schemes and a summer food fund but did not commit to expanding free school meals to all households in receipt of Universal Credit and two other key recommendations, stating: “I recognise that you and the Child Food Poverty Taskforce are supporting three of the recommendations in the National Food Strategy relating to food for lower income families. The Government will carefully consider each of the recommendations in the report as we approach the next spending review.”
Disappointed with the Government’s response tohis calls for more action on child food poverty,Marcus said that the Government showed “a lack of empathy ….. towards protecting our most vulnerable”.
Marcus, reportedly, is pressing MPs to go further in tackling hunger in families: “I didn’t have the education of a politician, I have never claimed to have all of the answers – but I have a voice and I will continue to use it for the millions who are not being heard. I have no interest in party politics. Letting millions of children in the UK go hungry at night is only an issue of humanity. We need to do better.”
Earlier this year The Food Foundation revealed the results of a YouGov survey which highlighted the sheer severity of the pandemic on Britain’s poorest families. More than 1.5 million adults responded, before the pandemic took hold, that they could not get enough food, a situation which we can only expect to get much worse with the unwinding of the Government’s furlough scheme. https://www.poverty.ac.uk/editorial/impact-covid-19-food-access
In September the Government has only been covering 70% of wages (employers being obliged to contribute 10%), and in October 60% (employers being obliged to contribute 20%), down from the previous 80% Government cap. The current scheme will finish at the end of October.
On Thursday last week the Chancellor announced the new Job Support Scheme where the Government will only cover wages up to a maximum of 22% in jobs it considers ‘viable’. With the Government paying a third of hours not worked, the employer also contributing a third, and employees taking a wage reduction, the Government expects employees to earn a minimum of 77% of their normal wages. The new scheme will run for 6 months from 1 November.
As well as providing enough support to prevent mass unemployment, Trade Unions wantthe Government to upskill Britain’s workforce, prepare for the jobs of the future and build a fairer labour market that offers decent work to everyone.
As reported by Business Live (https://www.business-live.co.uk/economic-development/companies-making-redundancies-uk-2020-18526945), this unprecedented situation has been coupled with thousands of redundancies across many multinational organisations including British Airways and a reducing lack of support for the self-employed and those on zero-hour contracts.
In agreement with Marcus Rashford, aratrust urges the government to find and use the necessary funds to implement the following National Food Strategy recommendations to save many families from the possibility of facing ‘2 lockdowns’ in the coming months ahead.
- Expanding free school meals to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 1.5m children aged seven to 16.
- Expanding an existing school holiday food and activities programme to support all children in receipt of free school meals in all areas of England, instead of the current 50,000 children that are helped.
- Increasing the value of the Healthy Start vouchers – which help parents with children under the age of four and pregnant women buy some basic foods – from £3.10 to £4.25 per week, and expanding it to all those in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 290,000 people.