A BARNSLEY MP has come under fire for voting against allowing free meals to be provided for more than 7,000 hungry schoolchildren across the borough during next week’s half-term break.

Penistone and Stocksbridge MP, Miriam Cates, was the only Barnsley MP to vote against the proposed plans to provide vouchers to struggling families.

Ms Cates was one of 318 Conservative MPs that vetoed the plans which were spearheaded by Manchester United and England footballer, Marcus Rashford, after a successful campaign during the summer.

Miriam said food vouchers were initially proposed as a ‘temporary solution’ to the issue of child food poverty.
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“During school holidays, schools are closed and don’t provide physical meals - free or not - to any child,” she added.

“What was really being called for was not free school meals but rather the continuation of a scheme that would give a £15 supermarket voucher to the parent of each child who is eligible.

“That is not the same as providing a daily nutritious meal to a child in the school environment to help them get the most out of their education. I think it’s important to recognise the difference between free school meals and a supermarket voucher.

“The initial voucher scheme that was set up in March was a practical, administrative response to the need to close schools for an indeterminate period.

“While some schools continued to deliver physical meals to children studying at home, for many this wasn’t possible, and the voucher scheme addressed this, but no-one suggested at the time that this was anything other than a temporary solution.

“Yesterday it was announced that Barnsley Council will receive an additional £5.5m to respond to the crisis in a targeted way, these are the immediate interventions that we need.”