Marcus Rashford 'grateful' for Boris Johnson free school meal U-turn

17 June 2020, 08:01

Boris Johnson congratulates Marcus Rashford for free school meal campaign

By Megan White

England footballer Marcus Rashford has said he is "grateful" that Boris Johnson made a U-turn to provide free school meal vouchers to eligible pupils over the summer holidays.

The Manchester United striker was praised by the Prime Minister for his highly personal campaign, which forced the change in policy.

The 22-year-old wrote an open letter on Monday asking the Government to reverse its decision not to award free school meals vouchers to vulnerable children outside term time.

A Department for Education spokesman said later that day that the national voucher scheme was not being extended.

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

The Manchester United striker was praised by the Prime Minister for his highly personal campaign
The Manchester United striker was praised by the Prime Minister for his highly personal campaign. Picture: PA

Rashford has said he is now planning his next move to help struggling families after his campaign led to a Government U-turn.

He said he was "shocked" by the decision, adding: "It's a big decision for someone to make and I'm just grateful that the Prime Minister did change his decision and he understood.

"I spoke to him and thanked him for that. It's a nice feeling but I'm just happy that people's lives, and people's summers especially, have been changed for the better."

But the player said that people are "struggling all year round" and he now wants to learn "how we can help them best" in the future.

Rashford added: "I think this is only going to be successful throughout the summer period so we've bought ourselves six weeks of time now to plan and figure out what's next and keep taking steps forward.

"I don't want this to be the end of it because there are definitely more steps that need to be taken. So we just need to analyse the response."

Number 10 said on Tuesday that the Government would provide a Covid Summer Food Fund to reflect the fact that families face an "unprecedented situation" over the holidays.

Mr Johnson congratulated Rashford on the campaign, saying the policy change was the "right thing to do".

The PM told the daily Downing Street press conference: "Clearly free school meals should generally apply in term time, that's what they are there for.

"But we have to understand the pressures families are under right now and that's why we've responded as we have.

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"As I say, I think it is the right thing to do and it will help the kids from the families who really need it."

It is understood that payment will be in the form of a one-off six-week voucher given to eligible families at the end of term to use in supermarkets.

The vouchers will amount to £15 a week per child and some 1.3 million children in England will be eligible, the Prime Minister's spokesman said.

The scheme will not continue beyond this summer, Downing Street said.