Responding to Labour’s ultimatum on Government to provide free school meals (FSM) until spring or face a Commons vote, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"Throughout 2020, Boris Johnson, Gavin Williamson and Rishi Sunak have had to be dragged into doing what is right for disadvantaged young people. They have failed to deliver sufficient IT equipment for remote learning, and then there was the botched roll-out of home delivery of free school meals during lockdown. That is before we even get to the repeated efforts of campaigners, including Marcus Rashford MBE, to address need during each school holiday.
"Any sensible Government would have met this call many months ago, once and for all, with a commitment to supporting families during holidays for as long as this situation continues.
"Instead, the Prime Minister has been under a series of delusions about 'sending Covid packing', but it didn't happen in the summer, and it doesn't look like it will be resolved any time soon. In all this, he is not doing what is necessary to keep families safe as winter approaches. Optimism, his stock in trade, is not something you can eat. With increasing lockdowns expected and the additional worries of reduced furlough, job losses, and the increased costs of working from home, families on low incomes need additional support now to keep afloat.
"The comments yesterday from the Prime Minister's spokesman were callous in the extreme. Covid has pushed many families over the brink into poverty, forcing thousands into food insecurity. This Government knows perfectly well our perilous economic situation and how hard this has hit disadvantaged families, not only those registered for FSM but the additional tens of thousands who will be plunged into poverty as a result of the recession.
"It is obvious that the Prime Minister and those around him cannot be relied upon to do what is right for disadvantaged pupils and students, which is why Labour has been moved to issue this deadline. The National Education Union fully supports their actions today."
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