South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck praises Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford's campaign for free school meals

The South Shields MP has welcomed the extension of the free school meals scheme - but says they Government should have acted sooner.

Emma Lewell-Buck has said she is ‘delighted’ that the Government has decided to extend the free school meals voucher scheme into the summer holidays.

The MP has praised the ‘game-changing intervention’ of Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford, whose high-profile and highly personal campaign led to the Government U-turn this week.

On Monday, June 15, Rashford wrote an open letter asking the Government to reverse its decision not to award free school meals vouchers to vulnerable children outside term time.

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford campaigned for the Government to extend its free school meal scheme during the holidays.

After mounting pressure Downing Street on Tuesday announced a one-off £120million fund which will benefit 1.3 million children in England over the six-week summer period.

But Ms Lewell-Buck said that ‘the anxiety’ felt by many families in recent weeks could have been avoided if ministers had acted sooner.

In a letter to the Education Secretary earlier this month - co-signed by more than 50 cross-party MPs - Ms Lewell-Buck called for the national voucher scheme to be extended.

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck says the Government should have acted sooner.

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Speaking in the House of Commons after the announcement on Tuesday, she said: “I am pleased that the Government have scrapped their active pursuit of a policy direction that would have seen 3 million children go hungry this summer, but it should not have had to take the powerful, heartfelt and game-changing intervention of Marcus Rashford to get to this point.

“The anxiety felt by families over the past few weeks could have been avoided had the Government acted sooner.

“Clearly, when cross-party MPs signed my letter to the Secretary of State earlier this month asking for an extension of the voucher scheme, the money was there, so why has it taken until now?”

She also pressed the Government to provide ‘detail’ on the announcement.

In a post on her Twitter account, she added: “We urgently need the detail because under the Tories holiday hunger is not new. I hope this really is a turning point.”

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