‘There’s no shame in it’ - councillor shares experiences of having free school meals
- Credit: Archant
A Norfolk councillor has shared childhood experiences of living on “starvation maintenance” as he called to extend a school meal scheme to tackle holiday hunger.
North Norfolk District Council is calling on government to do more to tackle the “rising” issue of child poverty and families needing free school meals.
During a council meeting held on Wednesday, November 18, Greg Hayman, Liberal Democrat member for Trunch shared his personal experience ofFSM.
“I was lucky enough when I was at school to receive FSM because my father managed to successfully avoid paying maintenance or get away with paying starvation maintenance,” he said.
“For me and my two brothers and two sisters in a very low income family, we were fortunate enough to benefit from FSM.”
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He added: “There’s no shame in admitting that and there should be no shame attached to those families who need FSM as a result of poverty or a lack of funds.
“It’s important children don’t go hungry. It affects their wellbeing, their ability to grow and to learn.
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“We suffer real hardships here and I know how difficult that is.”
Lucy Shires, Lib Dem member for Happisburgh, added: “Not every family can get FSM with the current caps. We have the working poor now - families who work hard and struggle and can’t access support. This should not exist today. We must reduce inequality and the wealth-poverty divide.”
But Duncan Baker, North Norfolk Conservative MP and councillor for Holt, said: “We all recognise that caring for our most vulnerable in society and ensuring no children ever go hungry is something no councillor or MP would ever dispute.
“It is important to recognise what the government has brought forward recently that has been given the plaudits it deserves and somewhat supercedes this motion.
“We now have in front of us an over £400m response to ensuring that no vulnerable child or family goes hungry and is well catered for but also sets up things I hope that we will do going forward.”
Council chairman Dr Clive Stockton added: “Can I remind you, Mr Baker, that what you are in is a district council meeting?”
And independent group leader John Rest asked that the motion reference pupil premium funding, which is extra enrichment funds automatically given to schools.
Councillors voted for the motion with 29 votes in favour and nine abstentions.
It was not clear whether Mr Baker voted for the motion as the council did not record the votes - but he was among the majority of Conservatives who opposed a vote to extend the scheme in the House of Commons.