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  • Nicole Rich

Why Has It Taken Marcus Rashford to Expose The Government's Child Poverty Crisis?

The issue of Child Poverty has become an increasingly damning stain of the past decade of Conservative Party leadership, each year figures rise. Prior to Coronavirus Britain, 53% of children lived in poverty and 70% of those children come from working class families. How was that acceptable in 2019? Where our economy was stable and had record high employment numbers? And now, with the biggest pandemic of our generation on our hands, child poverty and hunger is set to rise even more rapidly.

After a mass number of calls from Labour, members of the public and even England footballer, Marcus Rashford, the Government have decided to perform a U-Turn in extending the Free School Meals voucher scheme for vulnerable children across the country. However, why has it taken a footballer to publish an emotional open letter to all MP’s and Labour’s campaign of #holidayswithouthunger for senior ministers to see some sense? Only this morning, (16th June) did Conservative ministers state that they will not be extending the scheme that feeds currently 1.3 million children. This development led to uproar across social media platforms, many utterly confused on why feeding children has suddenly become a debate.

Surely the terrifying statistics that were published by the food support charity, the Trussell Trust in April clearly highlighted the need to have extended the voucher scheme much earlier than today. They announced that there had been an 81% increase in emergency food parcels given to vulnerable families and a further 122% increase in the rise of food parcels to young children. This was only April, only the beginning of the biggest crisis that has faced this country and it’s children since World War Two.

By 2024, 5.2 million children could be in poverty and not know where their next meal will come from, just like Mr Rashford and his siblings were, when they were growing up ten years ago. Yet, the issue of child hunger still remains and in such a developed Western society, this should not be the case. As the footballer rightly states, ‘as we approach the end of the furlough scheme and a period of mass unemployment, the problem of Child Poverty is only going to get worse’.

David Innes, the head of Economics at the Joseph Rauntree Foundation explained that the ‘risk of poverty is more likely for people on low wages,’

so those individuals who are returning to their non-essential retail jobs this week will not be able to soften the blow of poverty being inflicted on their children. It isn’t enough for child poverty to be cured by their families returning to work, if that was the case there wouldn't have been as many struggling families prior to lockdown so why did the Prime Minister act this way until his U-Turn?

There are many reasons why the Government as a whole could have simply chose to ignore this pressing crisis but what they must’ve learnt by now that this isn’t a political or economic issue, it is one that requires the basic British common sense and kindness that our Prime Minister has wanted us to abide by during this all. I am glad that he has decided to take his own advice.

But, let us all remember this, without the brilliant Marcus Rashford, 1.3 million children across England and Scotland were set to potentially starve over the summer holidays. No matter what momentum Labour’s campaign attracted, we could still have been in that same dire position. After the Welsh Government’s decision on the 22nd April to have extended the scheme for the summer, why didn’t our Government follow suit? It’s a conundrum that took centre stage last Wednesday during PMQs. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson was adamant that the pledge of £63 million to local authorities would ‘put its arms around the country.’ I think recent developments debunk that theory.

If Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson and Vicky Ford, the Secretary of State for Children and Families want to ensure our next generation of workers and entrepreneurs succeed and flourish, they need to ensure there are sufficient plans put in place to help the children affected academically and socially. The National Education Union conducted a survey last year where they asked 8,600 teachers about how poverty affects their students and a staggering 91% said poverty limited their children’s progress. This soon will not just be an issue about hunger but one also about the education of our future generations. We must all hope that the reported three week delay of vouchers being sent out to families and some computers still yet to be sent out to those who desperately need them isn’t a foreshadowing of what is yet to come.

This all begs the question on why our Prime Minister and his ministers have to be shamed into doing the moral thing? The first U-Turn Johnson performed was about NHS migrant surcharges and now it is about free school meals, these are basic acts of humanity to keep our country moving and working for as many people.

Hats off to Marcus Rashford for being an absolute hero and again, in the wise words of this footballing legend, ‘the well-being of our children should ALWAYS be a priority.’





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