BOROUGH MPs were among those who voted against extending free school meal vouchers during school holidays.
Solihull MP Julian Knight and Meriden MP Saqib Bhatti voted against the parliamentary motion, which had been championed by footballer Marcus Rashford, who called on people to ‘unite’ to protect the most vulnerable children.
Last week Labour’s non-binding motion, which would not have become law, was defeated by 322 votes to 261 following a debate in the House of Commons.
Following the vote Mr Bhatti said: “I believe we need a proper long term solution to child food poverty and I do not feel the extension of the free school meal voucher system addresses this.
“The Government has provided local councils in England with £63m specifically to help families who are struggling to afford food and other essentials due to Covid-19.
“The Government has also increased payments to the recipients of Universal Credit from April 2020.
“It is also worth noting that Labour’s motion last week did not have any power to change the law or impact on free school meals.
“Solihull Council is offering support, including to recipients of free school meals through the ‘Here to Help’ team.
“My office is also always open to try and help anybody who needs us.”
Mr Knight said: “I know that recent months have been particularly challenging as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and that many families are struggling to afford essentials.
“That is why the Government has previously provided local councils with £63m in additional funds to assist families in the greatest need.
“Government also provided a cash boost of £1,000 from April 2020 for 12 months to those on Universal Credit, through an increase in the standard allowance.
“Indeed, thanks to increased support from the Government 50,000 more children will receive free school meals by 2022.
“The motion last week did not have any legislative power, and even if passed would not have translated into further support for pupils in need.
“While free school meals are an important part of the Government’s support for vulnerable children and families, they are not the only measure.
“Solihull Council has been supporting a wide range of people during the course of the coronavirus outbreak, including families in receipt of free school meals.
“If you are aware of anyone who needs support with their food shopping, I would encourage you to make them aware of the council’s ‘Here2Help’ team who will be able to refer them for support. They can be contacted by phoning 0121 704 6000.”