The Government recently announced the scheme – which is worth £15 per week for each eligible child and was launched in March as part of the coronavirus response to help support low income families whilst schools are closed – would stop for the summer holidays.
The petition follows a direct appeal from the Mayor of Tower Hamlets and council cabinet members to the Education Secretary last week to intervene. In a letter to Gavin Williamson MP, they urged him to protect the lifeline as the economic impact of the crisis continues, with food banks reporting record levels of people relying on their food parcels.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “We wrote to the Education Secretary last week to highlight just how important the Free School Meal voucher scheme is at this time of crisis, and we hope our petition will show how important the issue is to families in Tower Hamlets. The Government still has a few weeks before the school holidays start so I hope they’ll do the right thing and ensure the scheme can continue over the holidays.”
Cllr Danny Hassell, Cabinet Member for Children and Schools, said: “The pandemic has brought huge challenges and hardship to many families across the UK, and the Free School Meal voucher scheme has served as a lifeline during the crisis. It would be a huge mistake for the Government to stop the scheme over the summer holidays and it will hurt many families right at a time when they need extra support.”
Cllr Mufeedah Bustin, Cabinet Member for Planning and Social Inclusion, said: “Our petition highlights just how important the voucher scheme has been to families in Tower Hamlets during the crisis, many of whom will be deeply worried about how to feed their children over the summer holidays. The Government rightly brought in a range of measures to support people during the crisis and it seems ludicrous to withdraw one of these lifelines right at a time when it will be needed most.”