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Government U-turn to fund free school meals is the ‘decent thing to do’ says Portsmouth MP

Government have a committed a major U-turn and today agreed to fund free school meals during the summer holidays. A move welcomed by Stephen Morgan MP, who has been lobbying the Prime Minister to reverse his original decision.

In Portsmouth, over 5,000 children were at risk of going hungry this summer if government were to withdraw support for the provision of free school meals. This prompted action from the city MP who wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister which gathered just shy of 600 hundred signatures in less than 24 hours.

With the added financial strain of coronavirus and social distancing measures, many Portsmouth families were deeply concerned by the prospect of losing holiday lunch schemes. It is expected that an additional 200,000 children will fall below the poverty line due to the pandemic, making this food provision a vital lifeline for families across Portsmouth and the UK.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

‘’Children were at a heightened risk of going hungry this summer as the Covid-19 crisis hits family incomes while charities and food banks struggle to provide the same level of holiday support.

There was always a simple solution to this, and that was for the government to continue funding free school meals throughout the summer holidays. Their refusal to do so until today was a deeply callous move. It is encouraging that they have taken heed of warnings from MPs, public figures, charities and the Labour Party. However, we should not be at a point where we have to fight to feed the children of struggling families.

That is why I launched a campaign, with local people, to help force the reversal of the Government’s decision and will continue to speak out in favour of maintaining support for all those struggling amid this pandemic.”

The Government today caved in on their decision to stop free school meals over the summer after a passionate plea from Manchester United footballer Marcus Rushford, pressure from a number of MPs and ahead of an opposition day debate in Parliament headed up by Labour. The Government were planning to vote against the motion to restore the scheme for the holidays.

On the Prime Minister’s U-turn, the city MP added:

“Some are calling this a major U-turn by Government. I’m calling this a victory for common sense and decency.

The untold hardship faced by families at this time of uncertainty requires government to be looking at increasing support, not stripping it away. What really matters is no one should ever go hungry over the holidays. While the immediate threat of holiday hunger may be in hand, we now need to look at the root causes.

Holiday hunger is not new. Longer term, the Government must address the underlying cause of holiday hunger: child poverty, low wages and insecure work.”

Ahead of the government’s decision reversal, the city MP had written an open letter garnering hundreds of public signatures, backed Labour’s “Holidays without Hunger” campaign, and supported the Opposition Day Debate on the issue. He has vowed to continue taking action to combat child poverty throughout Covid-19 and beyond.