Lewisham Labour are fully behind Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign for the Government to provide more support to low-income families during the school holidays, ensuring that those children in receipt of Free School Meals (FSM) during term-time don’t go hungry in the holidays.
Unfortunately the Tory Government do not share our views, and do not see this is a priority, talking about “freebies” and “parental responsibility”, and subsequently voting down the Labour Party motion that would’ve provided 1.4 million disadvantaged children in England with £15 a week in food vouchers during holidays until Easter 2021.
This Government can seemingly find billions for dodgy contracts with unreliable operators run by their mates, but not a fraction of that cost to support those most vulnerable in our society.
We are therefore proud to announce that Lewisham Council has stepped up and joined a growing list of Labour-run local authorities in announcing they will be providing free school meals for around 12,500 children in Lewisham over the half-term holidays. On top of this, the Mayoress of Lewisham has already raised over £18,000 for her packed lunch appeal on JustGiving thanks to the generosity of Lewisham residents.
Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham said:
“Having received free school meals myself, I know how important they are to thousands of Lewisham families. In the midst of a pandemic and huge financial insecurity, it is unbelievable Conservative MPs did not vote to extend free school meals over the holidays. We couldn’t stand back and let children go hungry over half term. That is why we have stood up, like many other Labour-run local authorities despite facing punishing Governments to our own budgets, and filled the gap to ensure no child goes hungry this half term.
Holiday hunger has been a growing issue in recent years, which has only been exacerbated by COVID-19. It is morally bankrupt for the Government to allow children to go without food in one of the world’s richest economies. I would urge the Government to rethink this decision and do the right thing.”
Cllr Chris Barnham, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said:
“I am very proud of how our schools and our community are working with Lewisham Council to ensure that nearly 13,000 Lewisham children will receive free lunchtime meals this holiday. This is never a position the council should have been in, a government’s most basic duty should be ensuring children do not go hungry.
The Lewisham Mayoresses have raised over £18,000 to ensure children do not go without, but we cannot and should not rely on charity. Councils continue to see face government funding cuts due to austerity. I would urge the Government to put forward a long term strategy and invest in public services and to think again about holiday free school meals. I’d like to assure everyone, children who need free school meals will get them and families should speak directly with their school to arrange this. I’d also encourage anyone who can to donate to the Lewisham Mayoresses packed lunch appeal.”
For more information on the Lewisham Mayoress Packed Lunch appeal visit http://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/packedlunchappeal