Marcus Rashford forces second government U-turn

Disadvantaged children will be given free school meals over the Christmas holidays, in a major government U-turn that has delighted Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford.

The football star has been campaigning for the government to extend its free school meals support, an initiative which has been met with overwhelming support from charities, individuals and local authorities across the United Kingdom.

Following his team’s premier league clash against Everton on Saturday, Rashford received a personal phone call from Prime Minister Boris Johnson who pledged a £170 million to the COVID-19 Winter Grant Scheme; designed to support children, families and the most vulnerable over winter. The scheme comprises a range of measures to help tackle poor health, hunger and education.

Making the announcement, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: “We want to make sure vulnerable people feel cared for throughout this difficult time and, above all, no one should go hungry or be unable to pay their bills this winter.”

In response to the announcement, Rashford released the following statement: “Following the game today, I had a good conversation with the Prime Minister to better understand the proposed plan, and I very much welcome the steps that have been taken to combat child food poverty in the UK.

“There is still so much more to do, and my immediate concern is the approximate 1.7 million children who miss out on free school meals, holiday provision and Healthy Start vouchers because their family income isn’t quite low enough, but the intent the Government have shown today is nothing but positive and they should be recognised for that.

“The steps made today will improve the lives of near 1.7 million children in the UK over the next 12 months, and that can only be celebrated.”

The U-turn comes following a controversial vote in the House of Commons where Conservative MPs voted down a Labour motion that would see the state feed more than 1.4 million children during school breaks right through to Easter next year.

In response, Rashford intensified his campaign and attracted more than one million signatures to an online petition – piling pressure on Downing Street to pledge an increased level of support.