Firstly, I want to be absolutely clear; the Government will continue to provide free school meals for children in term-time. Yesterday’s vote does nothing to change that fact.
During the unprecedented time at the start of the pandemic, it was right that extraordinary measures were taken to provide meals at Easter and in the summer, reflecting that boundaries between education and home were blurred, especially for the children of keyworkers.
However, since September, we have been in a different position – with schools back open to all pupils. It is not for schools to provide food for pupils during the school holidays, nor has it ever been. Teachers have worked extraordinarily hard during the current crisis and to ask them to continue to keep schools open solely to provide meals would be unfair and unreasonable.
I believe that the best way to support families outside of term time is through Universal Credit, which this Government has increased by more than £1,000 for families this year due to coronavirus. This represents an additional £9.3 billion of support to families all year round. Moreover, the Government is ensuring that children who are eligible for free school meals continue to receive them if they are required to self-isolate.
I personally am committed to ensuring that young people have the support and opportunities to succeed for the future, and we will always provide a safety net to ensure those who need it most are supported.