Weston MP welcomes scheme to tackle child poverty during school holidays after Government U-turn

John Penrose has welcomed the Government's new support package to help disadvantaged families, follo

John Penrose has welcomed the Government's new support package to help disadvantaged families, following a campaign by Marcus Rashford. - Credit: Archant

Free school meals will be given to disadvantaged children during the Christmas holidays, following a Government U-turn.

England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford campaigned for the Government to extend the free school meal scheme into the holidays, but MPs voted against the motion earlier this month.

The Government has now agreed to spend more than £400milllion to support poor children and their families through a winter grants scheme.

From the package of support, £170milllion will be distributed through councils, with at least 80 per cent earmarked for help with food and bills.

Councils will receive funding from the beginning of December until the end of March.

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Rashford said he is ‘proud’ of everyone who has helped with the campaign and said the initiative will improve the lives of almost 1.7 million children.

Weston MP John Penrose who previously voted against the extension has welcomed the Government’s new plans to deal with ‘holiday hunger’.

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Mr Penrose said food voucher schemes do not work as well as a properly-designed benefits scheme, but said he would raise the issue with ministers to try to improve the system.

Speaking after the U-turn, he said: “It was all very well to point out the problems with the temporary summer ‘holiday hunger’ voucher scheme, but only if we could come up with a better alternative instead.

“That’s why I’m so pleased with this announcement, because it does exactly what I and others have been asking for, for ages.

“I hope that everyone, on all sides of the political spectrum, will be able to unite behind this new approach and give it the cross-party support that it deserves.”

The holiday food and activities programme will be expanded with a £220m investment to cover Easter, summer and Christmas in 2021.

A £16million cash boost will also be given to the nation’s food banks.

Rashford said he remained concerned about the children who would miss out on help ‘because their family income isn’t quite low enough’.

However, he added: “The intent the Government has shown today is nothing but positive and they should be recognised for that.

“The steps made today will improve the lives of near 1.7 million children in the UK over the next 12 months, and that can only be celebrated.”

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