Marcus Rashford's free school meals victory will help more than 10,000 Wakefield children

More than 10,000 Wakefield schoolchildren will benefit from footballer Marcus Rashford's successful free meals campaign.

Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 7:00 am
Rashford received huge praise after speaking out about disadvantaged children last week.

The Manchester United and England forward was praised for helping to force a government U-turn over a voucher scheme for pupils entitled to free hot dinners at school.

The vouchers were brought in at the start of lockdown as schools closed, but it was due to end before the summer holidays before the government's change of heart.

Concerns have been raised in Wakefield before about holiday hunger and some parents being unable to feed their children adequately over the six-week break.

But the issue has been largely left to charities and local volunteers to tackle.

Sally Kincaid, from the Wakefield branch of the National Education Union, welcomed the voucher extension but said she wanted free school meals to be available "every holiday" to those who need them.

"I think after COVID we should be arguing for this to continue every summer, forever," she said.

"I'm very sorry to say that a lot of people who will have lost their jobs during all of this will have been carers and parents.

"Children will be poorer as a result. I've been saying to head teachers that the list of children they have for free school meals will now look very different to the one they had before.

"Let's have it every summer, every school holiday. I think that's really important."

But the local authority said that idea was impossible without more money from the government.

Speaking this week, the council's Cabinet member for children and young people, Coun Margaret Isherwood said: "In the Wakefield district we have 10,464 children and young people who are eligible for free school meals – and we welcome Marcus Rashford’s intervention which has led to the Government extending the vouchers scheme over the summer to support children and their families."

Local Democracy Reporting Service