Speaking very much from the heart and from deeply personal experience, Manchester United and England footballer, Marcus Rashford has shone a spotlight over the past few days on the difficult decisions that many families will have to face this summer as they struggle to make ends meet.
Holiday hunger is sadly not unique to the Covid-19 crisis. Each year, children who are already eligible for free school meals, plus an estimated 2 million pupils who do not qualify but whose parents suffer in-work poverty, are thought to be at risk. Over 4 million children in the UK now live in poverty (around 30%), a figure that is expected to rise to 5.2 million by 2022-23.
Parents on low incomes often have to skip meals themselves so that their children can eat. Foodbanks and other community schemes step in to help where they can but with the Covid-19 pandemic pushing families into even deeper poverty, it is now more important than ever that help is available to those who need it the most. It is an absolute scandal that every day, so many children still go hungry.
The question of whether free school meals should continue over the summer holidays has raised little debate here in Wales. The Welsh Labour Government rightly led the way and took swift action making Wales the first country in the UK to make funding available to do so.
Why the Tories have been so callous and out of touch when it comes to delivering the same help to families in England is bewildering. Later today, I will be backing the Opposition Day Debate in the House of Commons, the first such debate taking place under Keir Starmer’s leadership, calling for Boris Johnson and his Cabinet to reverse their decision and right this wrong.
Will they listen? They have shown no indication so far that they will but for the sake of all those children who will suffer as a result, I really hope they do.