Last night, the Tories voted down Labour’s motion to extend free school meals during the holidays to disadvantaged children. My son enjoys maths so this morning we did a rough calculation to find out the cost to the Treasury of the scheme, had it been voted through.

According to this article in the Guardian, it would affect 1.4 million children. The vouchers are worth £15 per week, and there are four weeks holiday between now and Easter, which is when it was proposed the scheme would run until. So the calculation is as follows;

(15x 4) x 1.4 million = £84 million.

Which my son thought was a lot. However, according to the same article, the government has paid out £210 billion in financial help during the pandemic. So by way of comparison we then looked at what order of magnitude there was between the two sums;

210 billion/ 84 million = 2.5 million.

My son and I talked about how this put it into perspective; that it was like a rich person giving £2.5 million to help all sorts of people but refusing to give my son £1. He was aghast.

While I don’t think food vouchers are a long term solution and wouldn’t pretend to have any answers, I can’t believe for a moment this is about concern over spending money. Call me a cynic, but I’m sure this is more about the optics - looking good to the voter who gets up in arms about benefit fraud and the like. Thing is, from where I’m standing, it just looks mean-spirited.

Stephen James

Minding the gaps

© Stephen James 2021

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