On 18 January the Labour Party secured an Opposition Day Debate on Free School Meals and Home learning. Whilst Rushanara was unsuccessful in the ballot to speak, she has called on the Government to step up and end the ongoing crisis facing so many families.
Marking this important debate, Rushanara Ali MP said:
'This pandemic has hit the vulnerable hardest. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, parents with children in poverty before the crisis are 40% more likely to lose their jobs. With 15,000 children in Tower Hamlets reliant on Free School Meals, it is unacceptable that the Government's ongoing Free School Meals scandal puts their well-being at risk.
To compound this insecurity, Tower Hamlets Borough has 10,000 children in urgent need of laptops to enable home learning. The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) have estimated that 1.6 million children across the UK have no home access to a laptop, desktop or tablet, yet the Department for Education has promised to provide 1 million laptops to only some of these children. This is made worse by the fact 880,000 children’s only internet access is through a mobile phone.
This problem will not simply go away, and the Government’s utter incompetence is damaging the life chances of children in our community. It is vital that the £20 uplift in Universal Credit is maintained, that there is a long-term plan for free school meal provision, and widespread access to digital devices and internet access are made available to children as a matter of urgency.”