Commenting on debates held today in the Commons, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“More than 1 in 4 children across the UK are growing up trapped in poverty, but we are still having the same conversations about whether MPs will do the right thing to tackle the scourge of child poverty in 2021.
“The NEU welcomes Labour's decision to focus their debate today on universal credit, free schools meals and remote access to learning. If the Government adopts the measures proposed by Labour this will demonstrate that Ministers are serious about promoting children and young peoples’ health, wellbeing and education. Adopting these measures would also help achieve much better outcomes for our young people in this period of lockdown than we have seen over the last ten months.
"The last few months have shown that there’s strong public support for a clear strategy to solve poverty in our country. Extending Free School Meal (FSM) provision to cover the school holidays would ensure 1.3 million children will no longer have to live with the fear and anxiety of holiday hunger looming over every school break.
"Currently over 1.7 million children growing up in families on Universal Credit, some surviving on less than £20.50 a day, are not eligible to receive the support of FSM. Extending provision to include these low-income families would provide much needed security for children and remove the barrier hunger creates, preventing too many from reaching their full potential.
"Teachers, heads and parents are working their hardest to collaborate around remote education, but a lack of appropriate equipment continues to limit access to safe learning from home for at least one million children and young people. Schools cannot wait any longer for these promised resources. Providing a new, dedicated technology budget for all schools would enable schools to support their pupils directly and at speed. With continued uncertainty around the progress of the R rate in the coming weeks and months, access to remote learning must be a priority of Government to protect and support our children’s learning experience.
“This pandemic has shown that many people may need to rely on the social security system at some point. The Government did the right thing last year by uplifting Universal Credit by £20, but the level of need has not changed so they must make this permanent and extend to people on legacy benefits. Government has to act boldly to ensure this lifeline is not cut during this time of huge pressure on families.
“We urge MPs to use their vote today to ensure that no child is left behind.”