Will Forster

Lib Dem Spokesperson for Woking and Councillor for South Woking Learn more

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Free school meals

by willforster on 27 October, 2020

Just before the summer, the Government refused to support families of children on free school meals. Thankfully, after a campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford, they backed down and provided food vouchers for the school summer holiday.

But what about half term, Christmas holidays and the school holidays next year?  What if schools are forced to close again for lockdown?

That is why there was a vote in Parliament to extend free school meals to future holidays was held last week.  However, Conservative MPs – including Woking’s MP – voted against extending free school meals.

That vote means that during this week’s half term, the Christmas break and future school holidays, there will be many parents struggling to feed their children.  Like many people, I was appalled by this.  I thought everyone would agree that feeding children was a moral imperative, sadly almost all Tories disagree and are willing for children to go hungry.

However, pretty much everyone who is not a Conservative wants to ensure children living in poverty have access to free school meals during school time, holidays and periods of lockdown.  People are clearly not giving up on ending child food poverty.

We know this Government will not change their mind and do the decent thing without being forced to.  That is why Marcus Rashford has created a petition to get the Government to U-turn and extend free school meals again – please sign it here.

Almost straight after the awful decision at national level, several local authorities thankfully stepped in to fund and provide free school meals for half term and Christmas.  My Lib Dem colleagues and I have called on both Surrey County Council and Woking Borough Council to do the same – they need to show compassion, take responsibility and step in.

Similarly to central government, all too often local government will not to the right thing until they have to.  Which is why my colleagues have started a petition to get the County Council to extend free school meals in Surrey to support the 17,000 children that are entitled to them. If you agree with us, please sign this petition as well here.

These two petitions could help ensure no child is left hungry in future, but there is a problem now – that is why I am delighted businesses, churches and other organisations have offered to help.

Here in Woking and right across the country, people are not waiting for the Government or their Council do the right thing.  Well done to businesses like Horsell Kitchen, or Welcome Church and other groups like Woking Football Club for being so generous.  They should not have needed to, but it is vital they have stepped up – thank you for the support they are giving to families in need at this difficult time.

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