Rishi Sunak Denies Calling Parents of Children on Free School Meals “Freeloaders”
During a government meeting about Marcus Rashford’s holiday hunger campaign, Rishi Sunak has denied making derogatory comments towards the parents of children on free school meals, despite claims made during the Covid inquiry.
Government Meeting and Allegations
The Covid inquiry revealed that during a meeting in 2021, former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance quoted someone in government as saying, “Good working people pay for their children to eat and we don’t want freeloaders.” Rishi Sunak, Sir Patrick, and then Conservative chief whip Mark Spencer were present at the meeting, where the funding of free meals through the summer was being discussed. Despite Mr. Sunak denying the claims, the inquiry did not disclose who else was in attendance.
Marcus Rashford’s Campaign and Government Support
Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United footballer, had previously secured a u-turn from Boris Johnson’s government to fund free school meals through the summer holidays after facing initial resistance. A year later, Rashford again campaigned for the scheme to continue, prompting Mr. Sunak to address the government’s support for pandemic projects and the funding of free meals.
Free School Meals Row
Mr. Sunak was pressed further on the free school meals row by inquiry KC Hugo Keith, and on whether the resistance to Rashford’s campaign was a “huge blunder” before the u-turn. Mr. Sunak admitted to not remembering the exact decision-making process but emphasized his contribution to funding free school meals and implementing the Holiday Activity and Food Programme.
Support for Vulnerable Families
When asked about the alleged “freeloaders” comment, Mr. Sunak reiterated that the pandemic caused particular turmoil for those on the lowest incomes, and the government’s support disproportionately helped them the most. He defended the actions taken and argued that the evidence shows the support benefited those most in need.
In conclusion, the allegations made during the Covid inquiry have sparked debate surrounding the government’s approach to supporting vulnerable families and children on free school meals. Despite denying the derogatory comments, Rishi Sunak’s responses during the inquiry shed light on the decision-making processes and the government’s commitment to aiding those in need during the pandemic.