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Rishi Sunak rejects Marcus Rashford’s calls to extend free school meals over Christmas

Mr Sunak said that it was “right” that the government had “transitioned to a more normal way of doing things.”

Georgina Pellant Georgina Pellant - 25th October 2021

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has appeared to reject calls by footballer Marcus Rashford to extend free school meals over the Christmas period.

A consistent campaigner for free school meals in the UK, Mr Rashford most recently called on the government to extend the provision for children in a letter to The Sunday Times on Sunday, 24 October

Calling for levelling-up to “begin with guaranteeing that every child in Britain can eat well — at least once a day”, he came together with food industry leaders from a number of organisations including Fareshare, Deliveroo, Sainsbury’s, Kellogg’s, Asda, Nestle and Iceland to ask the government to do more.

The letter went on to lay out the costs of extending free school meals and Healthy Start for more children over the next three years: 1% of the education budget and 4% of annual spending on obesity.

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The signatories also added that failure to extend to provision would “deepen and extend the scarring caused by the pandemic on our youngest citizens and ultimately our economy.”

Speaking to BBC One‘s ‘The Andrew Marr Show’ about the requests in the letter, Mr Sunak said that it was “right” the provision of free school meals should come to an end.

The Chancellor told the show that as other additional support, such as furlough and the £20 weekly Universal Credit uplift, had finished it was “right” the government had “transitioned to a more normal way of doing things.”

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He said: “So we put in place some measures to help families during coronavirus, that was the right thing to do, and in common with the other things that have now come to an end, whether that was furlough or other things that’s right that we’ve transitioned to a more normal way of doing things.

“But we have replaced… but we have actually already acted, is what I’d say to Marcus and everyone else. 

“We’ve put in place something called the Holiday Activities programme, which provides not just meals but also activities for children during holiday periods for those families that need extra help.”

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Marcus Rashford and other campaigners continue to push for free school meals in England ahead of the Chancellor’s Autumn budget statement on Wednesday, 27 October.

They have already been extended in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Featured Image – BBC One / The Andrew Marr Show