In climbdown, UK government gives extra support to struggling families

A mural of Manchester United and England soccer player Marcus Rashford by artist Akse_P19 is seen in Manchester, Britain

Britain’s government will give extra support to prevent families going hungry or without essential items this winter, a climbdown after resisting calls by footballer Marcus Rashford to extend free school meals to disadvantaged children.

Britain’s work and pensions department said it would provide a new 170 million pound Winter Grant scheme to local councils, with at least 80% earmarked for support with food and bills until the end of March, among other provisions.

The government has been under pressure to help those on low incomes to feed their children especially after more people have lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but parliament, where the governing Conservatives have a majority, voted against extending free school meal vouchers last month.

“We want to make sure vulnerable people feel cared for throughout this difficult time and, above all, no one should go hungry or be unable to pay their bills this winter,” Work and Pensions Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, said in a statement.

Rashford, who spoke to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday after his club Manchester United won a premiership match, said the move would improve the lives of almost 1.7 million children, but added that “there is still much to do”.

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