Pressure is mounting on government to provide free school meals throughout school holidays in England due to Manchester United striker, Marcus Rashford’s campaign.
Campaigning for the government to tackle food poverty among children by extended the free school meals through the half-term and Christmas holidays, Marcus Rashford’s petition has now been signed by 296,000 people.
Labour is now writing to every backbench conservative MP to press home the issue. Robert Halfon, chair of the education committee and conservative MP plus some others, have also called for vouchers to be provided at half term.
Rashford successfully campaigned for the ‘Covid food fund’ causing the government to U-turn their decision during the spring lockdown. He is now campaigning for food stability for all children, including the 1.5 million children who are receiving no support.
The shadow children and early years minister, Tulip Siddiq, has sent a letter to each Tory MP to set out the number of children on free school meals in their consistency.
She wrote: Families across the country are worried about how to make ends meet but the prime minister is ruling out giving over a million children food support over the holidays.
“Every Conservative MP now has an opportunity to make it clear that they will support the families in their constituency who are worrying about how they will put food on the table in the weeks ahead.”
Labour has promised to use an opposition day debate in Commons on Wednesday to vote on the issue if ministers have not changed their minds.
The vote would force MPs to make a choice on extending the scheme or not.
Halfon said he does not support every aspect of Rashford’s current campaign but he wants to see ministers come up with a plan to eliminate child hunger.
He said: “What the government should have done is say: ‘We’ll sit down with you and we’ll set up a long-term plan to deal with child food poverty,’”
He added that part of the plan could be an expansion of breakfast clubs and holiday camps which provide meals alongside other activities. He also said that food vouchers for the poorest households should continue temporarily ‘while we’re in the middle of a pandemic and 32% of families have seen a drop in their income’.
Since the pandemic hit, a further 900,000 children have registered for free school meals, according to a survey carried out by Food Foundation thinktank.
Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said on Monday that the Prime Minister’s view remains the same, that extra help for poorer pupils is not needed anymore.
They added: “We are making sure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected, and we have put in place a strong package of support to ensure children and their families don’t go hungry during this pandemic,”
“We are in a different position now, with schools back open to all, and the vast majority of pupils back in school. Free school meals have only ever been intended to support eligible pupils attending school during term-time. We think that it’s important these arrangements return.”
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Schools are working incredibly hard to help children catch up with lost learning amid the ongoing disruption caused by rising Covid infection rates, and the pupils who need the greatest degree of support are often those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“To then have a situation where they are potentially going hungry through holiday periods is very obviously detrimental to both their welfare and educational progress.”
Government could pay overweight people to exercise as part of new scheme to tackle obesity
The UK ranks fourth in the world for its obesity rate
In efforts to reduce the UK’s obesity levels, the government could start paying overweight people to exercise and help them lose weight.
The UK ranks fourth in the world for its obesity rate with 63% of adults in England and one in three children starting secondary school are classed as overweight or obese. Health officials want to drive down these numbers.
With help from Sir Keith Mills – who founded the Nectar customer loyalty programme – ministers are set to receive advise on incentives and rewards that could be used to help create healthier diets and encourage people to become more physically active.
They will also look at successful schemes from around the world including the step challenge in Singapore.
The step challenge encouraged people to walk as they gained more ‘health points’ which eventually turned into money from the government.
Sir Keith could recommend the government roll out this type of scheme in the UK, as part of the new scheme to tackle obesity.
The government has announced a £100m package to help fight obesity with over 70m going towards weight management services in the NHS and councils.
This could mean up to 700,000 adults have access to courses such as Weight Watchers and Slimming World to help keep track of their diets and have regular weigh-ins.
A further £30m could be used on other initiatives such as the Better Health campaign that gives tips on weightloss and exercise through an NHS app.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the drive to tackle obesity has become even more urgent once it emerged that being overweight can increase people’s chances of becoming seriously ill or being admitted to hospital with the virus.
The World Obesity Federation analysed coronavirus death figures and found that in countries where more than half the population are overweight, deaths are ten times higher. The UK ranked among the worst countries.
The WOF explains that hundreds of thousands of deaths could have been avoided if countries had done more to reduce obesity in their populations.
After prime minister Boris Johnson was hospitalised after contracting the virus in April last year, he started openly speaking about his efforts to lose weight.
The Prime Minister said: “Losing weight is hard, but making small changes can make a big difference. If we all do our bit, we can reduce our own health risks – but also help take pressure off the NHS.
“This funding will give extra support to people across the country who want to lose weight too.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “The urgency of tackling obesity has been brought to the fore by evidence of the link to an increased risk from Covid-19, so it’s vital we take action on obesity to protect the NHS and improve our nation’s health.”
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Living with obesity can have a devastating impact on people’s health and wellbeing in so many ways, not least its link this year to the increased risk from Covid.
“This investment will greatly boost services for adults struggling with their weight and raising the profile of our Better Health campaign will help to support more people to make healthier choices.”
Liam Gallagher has brutal message for the government over the proposed 1% NHS pay rise
He didn’t hold back
Liam Gallagher has taken to Twitter to give his opinion on the NHS pay row.
The outspoken singer has weighed in on the proposed 1% pay rise for NHS staff this year.
It comes after health secretary Matt Hancock described the country’s finances as ‘tight’, leaving nurses across the country – who have played a vital role throughout the pandemic – angered.
Liam kept things simple, tweeting: “Give the NHS and care workers a proper pay rise you wankers LG x”
One follower said: “Our NHS has been our front line in this battle with covid and we’ve done what? Clapped? Cracking. That makes it worthwhile.”
A second added: “Thanks Liam I’m an NHS worker and it’s gutting this 1% that is being offered.”
Matt Hancock was faced with a question from a nurse during yesterday’s press conference, wondering how the government would have coped without nurses throughout the pandemic.
In response he said: “It’s an incredibly important point that we need more nurses – not just the nurses that we have now – and we have a clear manifesto commitment to 50,000 more nurses in the NHS, and I am delighted that there are more than 10,000 more nurses that have joined the NHS over the last 12 months.
“Also we have seen an increase of 34%, so more than a third, in the number of applications to nursing.
“And of course over the past three years nurses have had a 12% pay rise.
“The challenge is that the nation’s finances are tight and whilst everyone else is going to get a pay freeze we are able to propose a pay rise for nurses of 1%.
“I appreciate that that reflects the difficult financial circumstances that the country is in.
“What I would say to every nurse who is watching and everybody that is working so hard is we have over this pandemic pulled together in an incredible way and I hope we can continue to do that to deliver for patients and also to support our NHS and welcome many, many more nurses into the NHS in the years ahead.”
The Royal College of Nursing has put together a £35m fund that can be used to help compensate nurses if they strike following the low pay offer.
Members of the public are being asked to take part in a mass ‘slow clap’ for nurses on Thursday at 8pm, to mock the governments’ previous clap for the NHS campaign.
Mental health nurse fined £10,000 after organising protest over ‘offensive’ NHS 1% pay rise
The nurse who organised a protest in Manchester city centre yesterday about the ‘offensive’ 1% pay rise for NHS workers will be fined £10,000.
Mental health worker and Unison rep, Karen Reissmann attended the demonstration in St Peter’s Square on Sunday at midday.
Attendees were wearing masks and cones were marked on the floor to help everyone maintain social distancing.
However, Karen, aged 61, was spoken to before the protest could go ahead by officers from Greater Manchester Police.
Officers explained that due to the current Covid-19 restrictions the protest would be illegal.
Karen explained that the protest would have to end to those in attendance and the gathering dispersed.
Once the crowd had dispersed, Karen spoke to officers on the edge of St Peter’s Square and was told she would be handed the £10,000 fine.
A 65-year-old woman who stayed with Karen was arrested for ‘failing to provide details having refused the opportunity to leave when asked’. She was later de-arrested after providing details and was given a £200 fine.
Around 40 people attended the gathering according to a statement released by GMP on Sunday afternoon. They added that officers engaged early ‘using the first of the four Es approach – engaging, explaining and encouraging compliance with legislation.’
Supt, Caroline Hemingway said: “With the positive step of schools reopening tomorrow, it is vital that people continue to follow Government legislation on social distancing and avoid gathering illegally in large numbers.
“Regardless of one’s sympathies for a protest’s cause, we would ask the public to maintain social distancing and follow legislation to prevent a rise in infections and provide the best possible chance of a further easing of restrictions in the weeks to come.
“We sought to engage with and peaceably disperse those attending this afternoon’s protest, explaining that the gathering was in contravention of Government lockdown rules.
“Unfortunately officers were met with a degree of non-compliance and it was therefore necessary to enforce issue FPNs.”
Speaking to the crowd, Karen said: “Unfortunately the police have told us we can’t proceed with this despite what’s going on in the health service.
“We’ve been told we will not be able to go ahead with this, I’ll be fined and reported to my employer and disciplined and people here will be fined as well, so we will therefore be shutting it down.
“I think we’ve made the point we wanted to make, we sent a message to the government. I think it’s outrageous that somehow this is deemed illegal when the size of the crowd here will be ten times bigger in hundreds and thousands of schools tomorrow morning.
“This isn’t about safety, this is about the government trying to stamp down on protest which I think is a dying shame. The health service will lose out.”
A GoFundMe has been set up to help Karen pay the fine.