Millions of children face hunger under Tory austerity – TUC must act!

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A SHOCKING study carried out by the GMB union released yesterday showed that almost one in ten school staff bring in their own food to feed kids who would otherwise go hungry.

The GMB conducted a survey of thousands of school support staff across the country and found that eight per cent of them felt they had to spend their own money on food for children who simply did not get enough to eat at home.

Over half the staff surveyed reported spending their own money to provide other essentials for pupils including tampons, pens, pencils, books, toilet paper and toys.

The GMB also uncovered confirmation from a Department for Education analysis that up to 2.6 million children could lose their right to free school meals by 2022 under government changes to eligibility under the Universal Credit system. When the system was first introduced in 2013, all children with parents on benefits were eligible for free school meals.

In March this year, the criteria for eligibility was changed by the Tories and is now based on income. Under the new rules only children from families with an income below £7,400 a year will get free school meals (FSM) – meaning an extra one million kids from the poorest families now getting nothing.

According to the Tories, the change was necessary because by 2022 ‘around half of all children would become eligible for FSM’. Under Tory austerity, in four years’ time half of all school children in England should be eligible for free school meals – this is the true extent of child poverty today!

GMB National Officer Karen Leonard said: ‘It beggars belief that in one of the richest countries in the world, not only are kids coming into school starving – but this government is cutting free school dinners at the same time.’

She added: ‘Hungry children cannot learn effectively – Conservative cuts to education are endangering the future of an entire generation of young people. Meanwhile dedicated staff are left out of pocket because they refuse to allow kids to go hungry. It’s a scandal – and only properly funding our schools can give our kids the education they deserve.’

The Tories of course have no interest in funding schools; instead they are carrying on with a systematic policy of starving funding for education. The GMB survey revealed that 78% of staff say that their school has been forced to make ‘significant financial cutbacks’ – the inevitable result of the Tories imposing school cuts of up to £3 billion a year by 2020.

After the Tories announced the cuts in eligibility to free school meals, the TUC published research that showed the ever-growing crisis of child poverty in Britain today – even amongst those families with parents in work.

This research showed that 3.1 million children with working parents will be living below the official breadline this year. That’s an increase of one million since 2010 when the Tories came to power and launched their austerity drive to pay off the debts of the banks. This is the grim reality of British capitalism today, where millions of children are condemned to hunger and teaching staff are forced to step in and buy them food and provisions out of their own meagre salaries.

At the same time that schools are starved of funds, vast amounts of money are being lavished on the heads of the multi-academy trusts under the Tory drive to turn education into a money-spinner for the privateers.

Last Friday, over 1,000 head teachers took part in an unprecedented mass protest over the savage cuts to school budgets. But the TUC and the organised trade unions have sat back and taken no direct action against the Tory cuts that are starving millions of children and depriving them of any decent education.

Workers must demand that the TUC end just pleading with the Tories and immediately organise a general strike to kick them out and go forward to a workers government that will expropriate the bosses and bankers and use the wealth of the country to ensure an end to poverty and that will provide decent education for all children under a planned socialist economy.