England footballer Marcus Rashford has challenged the Prime Minister to “sit around the table” and find a way to fight child food poverty in the UK after Conservative MPs voted down his appeal to extend the free school meal programme.
Rashford, who was awarded an MBE in July after forcing a government U-turn and securing free school meals for vulnerable children throughout the summer, announced the Child Food Poverty Taskforce on October 14 and launched a new petition to secure free school meals until Easter 2021.
Labour carried the petition forward as a motion in Parliament but the Manchester United star’s appeal was rejected by 322 votes to 261, with five Tory MPs rebelling against the Government. More than 300,00 people had signed the petition.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had earlier dismissed the campaign, claiming that poor families are already supported by the Government’s Universal Credit benefits system.
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Rashford’s appeal demanded the government extend free school meals to a further 1.5 million children between seven and 16, including to those in families receiving Universal Credit.
Responding to the news on Twitter, the 22-year-old called on MPs to put aside party politics and stressed “a significant number of children are going to bed tonight not only hungry but feeling like they do not matter”.
The recommendations from the Taskforce are “endorsing Government-commissioned policy recommendations that were built from extensive research and data analysis” he added, and “vital to stabilising millions of households across the UK”.
“These children are the future of this country,” Rashford continued. “They are not just another statistic. And for as long as they don’t have a voice, they will have mine. You have my word on that.”
Time we worked together. pic.twitter.com/xFPsgBiPQC
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) October 21, 2020
The Big Issue has approached Number 10 to comment on Rashford’s invitation.
Rashford’s statement in full:
“Put aside all the noise, the digs, the party politics and let’s focus on the reality.
“A significant number of children are going to bed tonight not only hungry but feeling like they do not matter because of comments that have been made today.
“We must stop stigmatising, judging and pointing fingers. Our views are being clouded by political affiliation. This is not about politics, this is humanity. We talk about the devastating impact of Covid-19 but, if projections are anything to go by, child food poverty has the potential to become the greatest pandemic the country has ever faced.
“We must start working together and unite to protect our most vulnerable children. No more sticking plasters. Let’s face this head on. Let’s level up once and for all.
“The asks of the Child Food Poverty Taskforce remain the same. We are endorsing Government-commissioned policy recommendations that were built from extensive research and data analysis.
“These policies are vital to stabilising millions of households across the UK and need to be implemented without delay. Child hunger should never be faced with looming deadlines.
“We need a long-term sustainable framework and thanks to the 300,000+ signatures, we will now be offered the opportunity to discuss this. Following private and public approaches, I once again invite Number 10 to sit around the table with the Taskforce so that, together, we can collaborate on how best to combat child food poverty in the UK. We are here to help, but we require guidance and insight from those in Number 10.
“I don’t have the education of a politician, many on Twitter have made that clear today, but I have a social education having lived through this and having spent time with families and children most affected. These children matter.
“These children are the future of this country, They are not just another statistic. And for as long as they don’t have a voice, they will have mine. You have my word on that.”
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