Oldham’s Liberal Democrat Councillors are backing a union appeal to Boris Johnson urging the Prime Minister to ensure that ‘No child should be hungry’. The National Education Union, which represents teaching staff, has called on councillors from all political parties, and none, to endorse a collective letter to the PM asking for immediate action.
Liberal Democrat Councillors in Oldham have long been campaigning for the extension of free school meals to all children in need. They recently brought a motion to the November 2020 meeting of Oldham Council supporting the excellent work being done by footballer Marcus Rashford and calling on the government to provide free school meals to the children of all families in receipt of Universal Credit.
The Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, was the first of his group to sign the letter: “This appeal strikes at the heart of everything local Liberal Democrats have been saying for years. It is shameful and totally unacceptable that in the UK, which is one of the world’s largest economies, we still have children going hungry.
“Countless studies show that the education of hungry children suffers as they are too focused on their empty stomachs to learn. The reality is that there are now many more breadwinners who have been furloughed or lost their jobs as a result of the Covid pandemic and are finding it a struggle to feed their families on a lower wage or Universal Credit.”
The Liberal Democrats would also like to see more government money for breakfast clubs to be established in all schools attended by an above-average number of pupils from poorer families, so that they can access a nutritious breakfast before the start of the school day, but they recognise that the NEU appeal is a start.
Councillor Sykes added: “With Boris Johnson’s promise that children will be able to return to their classrooms from March, there is now an urgent need for the government to make this aspiration a reality. Extending the provision of free school meals will ensure that our most disadvantaged children can access at least one nutritious meal a day, so they focus on their lessons and not on their tummy.”