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Feed all children on universal benefit, Welby and Butler plead

01 October 2020

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THE Archbishop of Canterbury has joined the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, in urging the Government to give free school meals to all children from households on universal credit, to prevent a “harrowing” situation by Christmas for many families.

In a joint article published in the TES on Thursday, Archbishop Welby and Bishop Butler write: “The circumstances of the past year have meant that many have needed extra support. According to research by the Trussell Trust, 46,000 food parcels will need to be provided by their network to people in crisis between October and December 2020: an increase of 61 per cent on last year.

“Their estimate that an additional 670,000 people will be destitute by the end of the year is harrowing.”

They have urged the Government to supply schools with the resources they need to support children in the months ahead, including “the expansion of free school meals to every child whose family is on universal credit, and the expansion of holiday provision to all children on free school meals.”
Furthermore, they highlight the need to focus on children’s mental well-being, writing: “A Nature Premium would also be a valuable development. Outdoor play, exercise, and access to nature are vital to healthy learning. Helping schools ensure outside activities continue will aid mental as well as physical health.”

They acknowledge that school resources are “at their limits” in terms of time and funding, stating that the Government would need to fund more training and support for the volunteers needed to help feed children and provide extra educational support.

Archbishop Welby and Bishop Butler praise the efforts of Norwich diocese’s “Filling the Gap” project, which supplied 128 families with 26,082 meals over six weeks; also Marcus Rashford’s free-school-meals campaign (News, 16 June).

Archbishop Welby posted on Twitter on Thursday: “We stand with Marcus Rashford and everyone working so hard to make this happen.”

In addition, Bishop Butler joined a number of charities, including the Trussell Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in a letter on Wednesday to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, calling for him to retain the £20-a-week increase in benefits given during the pandemic. It was introduced in April as a temporary measure to help families on low incomes.

It was omitted from the Covid-19 support package announced last week. The authors write: “If the uplift ends in April 2021, this good work risks being undermined.”

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