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Well done to Marcus Rashford and his supporters
Well done to Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, his thousands and thousands of supporters, and all those charities, altruistic businesses and individuals, for pressuring the UK government into a massive u-turn on the issue of free school meal provision for low-income.
It is really good news that the money has been found for a “Covid winter grant scheme,” which I understand will be run by councils, as well as the expansion of a “holiday food and activities programme” and an increase in funding for Healthy Start payments.

Marcus Rashford may now be a very successful professional athlete, but he has been able to speak with a great deal of authority on this issue. Unlike ministers in this Government, he personally experienced poverty growing up in Wythenshawe, Manchester.

A magnanimous campaigner, he has sought to share the credit for his success, thanking the “charity workers, volunteers, teachers, care workers, key workers, that have fought for this level of progress for years” and saying that he was “honoured to be on this journey” with them. It also heartening that he intends to push for further measures to strengthen the safety net for those living in poverty through his “child food poverty taskforce.”

It would be easy to lambast the Government for the insensitive way in which it handled this issue, prior to the u-turn. But I think it best that we celebrate that the Prime Minister and MPs have listened and taken action.

At this very difficult time with the second lockdown, it is also to be welcomed that MPs have listened to unions and businesses, and taken the decision to extend and broaden its furlough scheme. There is undoubtedly considerable relief in many homes that the Treasury will now pay up to 80% of the wages of furloughed staff until 31st March. This is so vital for this month, while the additional support for the next four months could save many jobs.

In addition, it is positive that the Treasury has stated that staff, who have been made redundant, can be rehired and supported with furlough funding, and that there will be enhanced support for self-employed workers over the next three months.

We are all again coming to terms with what the latest lockdown entails, but it was thoughtful that Remembrance Sunday events were able to be held in a Covid-19 secure manner and I was honoured to be able to read out the names of the 90 men and one woman from my home parish who lost their lives in the two World Wars.
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Published on 19th November 2020.

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