Why Boris Johnson’s Excuses About Free School Meals Don’t Add Up

Sarah Turnnidge
·2 min read

In a political row as emotive as the free school meals saga, it’s little wonder the Tories – who voted overwhelmingly against extending the voucher scheme – are desperate to justify their position.

Facing a barrage of criticism, and an extraordinary community effort in opposition to the move, the PM and his ministers have insisted that free school meals outside of term time are not a good solution.

Billions of pounds, they say, have already been put into councils and the welfare system to help systemically prevent child hunger – despite the surging demand at food banks.

Speaking on Monday, Boris Johnson said: “We don’t want to see children going hungry this winter, this Christmas, certainly not as a result of any inattention by this government – and you are not going to see that.

“We will do everything in our power to make sure that no kid, no child goes hungry this winter during the holidays. That’s obviously something we care about very much.”

He continued: “We support the local councils – indeed we fund the local councils and many of the organisations that are helping in this period – but we are also uplifting Universal Credit by £1,000 and we think that is one of the best ways you can help families in this tough time.”

But this isn’t new money, and there are concerns it won’t reach the children who really need it. Here are three of the Tories’ claims about their support system, and the reasons they might not stand up to scrutiny.

The £63m given to local authorities by government

Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street.
Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street.

One of the key defences used by the government to justify voting against feeding hungry children is that they’ve actually already spent loads already.

Alongside injecting billions into the welfare system (more on that later), Johnson and his fellow Tories have referenced an additional £63m announced for local authorities in June to help those “struggling financially as a result of coronavirus”.

The Local Authority Emergency Assistance...

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