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Education Minister must now pledge free school meals over summer for Northern Ireland, says Lyttle

The Education Minister must follow the UK Government in pledging free school meal payments for children over the summer, Alliance Education spokesperson Chris Lyttle MLA has said.

Mr Lyttle, Chair of the Assembly’s Education Committee, was speaking after the Government announced a ‘COVID Summer School Fund’ to feed those in receipt of free school meals, following pressure from Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford. Those eligible during term time will get a six-week voucher.

“I welcome this U-turn by the UK Government and pay tribute to the exemplary leadership shown by Marcus Rashford,” said Mr Lyttle.

“However, this now means Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK who will not be operating a similar scheme. That needs to change. Alliance supports the extension of free school meal-type payments and assistance during holiday periods, and the Education Minister, with the support of the Executive if necessary, needs to ensure this is in place for this summer.

“Free school meals are a lifeline for many families and the right to food is protected under international law. The Executive must make it a priority to end food poverty by way of a rights-based, cross-cutting approach towards protecting the right to food – for all.”