MP Tom Hunt urges government to retain free school meal voucher scheme
PUBLISHED: 10:43 06 June 2020 | UPDATED: 10:43 06 June 2020
Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has written the government’s children’s minister amid reports that the free school meal voucher scheme will not be extended over the school summer holidays.
The scheme, which has been providing families of eligible students with vouchers worth £15 a week since March, have been “a real lifeline” for families that have been hit hardest during the coronavirus outbreak, Mr Hunt said.
As a member of the House of Commons Education Committee, Mr Hunt had previously said he would welcome the scheme, which offered vouchers redeemable at most supermarkets in lieu of free school meals, being extended until September.
But reports have emerged that the government is planning to scrap the voucher initiative by the time schools break up for the summer holidays in July.
This has prompted Mr Hunt to write to Vicky Ford, Chelmsford MP and children’s minister, to voice his concerns over the reported plans.
Mr Hunt cited a study which found one in four children in Ipswich are living in relative poverty, arguing the cancellation of the scheme would have the “greatest impact” on the poorest families.
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He said: “This would be a deeply disappointing development and one I must urge you to reconsider.
“The £15-a-week vouchers for eligible children who are not in school due to Covid-19 closures is a real lifeline for many families in Ipswich who are under severe financial pressure and are struggling to make ends meet.
“We must avoid at all costs the risk of children going hungry over the summer holidays because of this pandemic.
“Reports have shown there are around three million children at risk of holiday hunger, and the effect of this on children’s health and performance at school is well documented.
“I trust you will consider this matter urgently and what can be done to support families in Ipswich as we continue to deal with the consequences of this terrible pandemic.”
Mr Hunt added: “A decision to end this scheme too soon will hit Ipswich’s most vulnerable children the hardest and no child must go hungry because of Covid-19.
“Moving forward, we’ll be working together on the Education Committee to prioritise this issue and to call on the Government to change course.”
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