Today saw another screeching U-turn from the Prime Minister – this time on free school meals. The Government bowed to pressure after Sir Keir Starmer secured a debate in Parliament, Premier League star Marcus Rashford called out the mean-spirited plan to deprive hungry kids of meal vouchers in the holidays and thousands of angry parents made their feelings known.
Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner welcomed the PM’s cave-in that will mean less holiday hunger this Summer, but warned that the school meal voucher system needs an overhaul.
Speaking in the debate in Westminster, the Labour MP told the Commons, that 16 schools in Cambridge have reported problems with the free school meal voucher system.
At the height of problems with the system run by private company Edenred, staff at North Cambridge Academy were getting up at 6am to try and log in before the system became overloaded and crashed.
Mr Zeichner called for the vouchers to be able to be used at more local shops including the Coop.
He said: “My local food hub told me about the despair of a mum of 4 from Chesterton. She put credit on her phone to receive the vouchers and then asked a friend to print them as she doesn’t have a printer at home. Then she walked to her local shop with her children in tow, shopped and queued, and finally reached the checkout only to be told that the national vouchers were not redeemable in the Co-op. She was inconsolable as all the food had to be put back – she had no way of paying for it. “
Speaking after the debate, Daniel Zeichner MP also warned that the Government must stop penalising well-run schools saying: “Some schools have cash in the bank and reserves – but it’s for a purpose – like investing in buildings and books and computers. The government guidance that schools with a budget surplus in the current financial year cannot reclaim the costs of providing vouchers needs a rethink. “