Voting against free school meals shames Britain | Letters

Readers respond after the government voted against extending free school meals to disadvantaged children during the holidays

Marcus Rashford – a young, gifted, working-class footballer – is proving to be more of a statesman than those currently leading the country (Support grows for Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign, 23 October). The government is missing the point. The free school meals policy was designed to help improve learning outcomes – hungry children tend not to learn as well as they should do. We are now faced with many in our society needing help to feed their families to stay well. The benefits system is unable to do so at the speed required, whereas schools know their communities and are ideally placed to work with other local leaders to get provisions to families who urgently need them. This is clearly the best option.

The government can afford to hand out up to £6,250 a day to test-and-trace consultants for a system that doesn’t work. A week of one of them, compared to the weekly £15 food voucher scheme, would feed more than 2,000 children. Shame on you, Boris Johnson.
Laura Cunningham
London

• If I were religious I would say that Britain sold its soul to the devil when 322 of our elected representatives voted against providing free school meals for children. We are living in unprecedented times through a pandemic of unknown proportions. Their votes traded humanity, compassion and charity for political posturing. That economic and political choices (both artificial and shape-shifting constructs) should override ethical and moral considerations says everything about this government. I thank with all my heart those who are trying to provide care and comfort to those in need in these terrible times when our elected leaders choose to balance the books and condemn the “virtue signalling” of a kind and caring young man.
Pat Harding
Settle, North Yorkshire

• Jo Gideon, a trustee for Feeding Britain, was one of many Tory MPs who voted against the food voucher scheme. She says she wants to develop cross-party support for more comprehensive, fundamental and long-term solutions, rather than responding to a “headline grabbing motion” or a “sticking plaster”. I wonder what kind of time frame she has in mind for her grand plan? Long-term solutions are essential but it’s negligent to ignore the need for short-term fixes. Increases in universal credit obviously don’t compensate for the loss of family income that creates child hunger.
Catherine Dornan
Llandrindod Wells, Powys

• Caroline Ansell seems to be an intelligent, caring and conscientious politician. To step down from her post over free school meals shows an empathy that is rare among Conservative politicians. Once the self-interested public school bully boys have gone from the party, there may be a chance for a more up-to-date approach and style of leadership. Her words referred to the key points – not a perfect solution, immediate help, not long term, families struggling in unprecedented times. What planet are her colleagues on? Children plus hunger in 21st-century Britain? There is no justifiable reason to not support this proposal.
Pam Roud
Somersham, Cambridgeshire

• I think I must be living in a parallel universe. It’s very upsetting. Nigel Farage says the decision looks “mean and wrong”. I actually agree with him.
Linda Weir
Kirby Muxloe, Leicestershire

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