Less starvation for us, more humiliation for the government

Hands off free school meals!, photo (public domain)

Hands off free school meals!, photo (public domain)   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Lindsey Morgan, Leicester Socialist Party

In its latest U-turn, the government finally agreed a £170 million package to support children – children largely made vulnerable as a result of the Tories’ capitalist system.

Free school meals will be provided for those currently entitled to them – over Christmas, Easter and summer holidays – until the end of 2021. This is a huge sigh of relief for many families, like mine, who will no longer have to starve some days so their children can eat.

Footballer Marcus Rashford lived in poverty as a child. His campaigning has shown up the inhumanity of the Tories and provided much more ‘opposition’ than Keir Starmer’s Labour.

The money – while massively welcome – isn’t being given back to us because the Tories have developed a conscience. It is to stymie potential civil unrest.

One of Rashford’s demands was for free school meals to be extended to all families in receipt of Universal Credit. Many low-paid workers are not entitled to free school meals, despite being in need, because they earn slightly over the threshold. They missed out when free school meals were extended to holidays in the first lockdown.

Rashford has not merely accepted the deal. He has promised to keep campaigning.

Rashford said: “There is still so much more to do. And my immediate concern is the approximately 1.7 million children who miss out on free school meals, holiday provision, and Healthy Start vouchers, because their family income isn’t quite low enough.” As families are dragged down, there will be more demand on the scheme and many more families in need.

There must be an immediate increase in the minimum wage to £12 an hour, as a step towards £15, and benefits on the level of a living wage – work or 100% pay.

It is a disgrace and a modern tragedy that, in the sixth richest country in the world, people need to campaign for children not to go hungry.

This U-turn is a victory, but we deserve so much more. If we can’t ‘afford’ to feed our children under capitalism, we can’t afford capitalism.