An ’empty plates’ protest will be held outside South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay’s office tomorrow (October 27) in a demonstration against the voting down of an Opposition Day motion to extend free school meals into the holidays until Easter 2021.
The failure of the motion, which was prompted by footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to tackle child poverty, has caused fury in Thanet and across the country.
Salmestone Ward councillors have now organised the protest to take place tomorrow from noon until 1pm outside the offices at 4 The Broadway, Broadstairs.
Those joining the action are asked to bring an empty plate or flowers.
The protest event page says: “Craig Mackinlay voted last week to deny children of Thanet a meal during the school holidays. Bring an empty plate or some flowers to represent the hunger he has chosen for the children. Please wear a mask and socially distance.”
Salmestone councillor Candy Gregory said: “I’m organising this protest (with Cllr Pauline Farrance) in response to Craig Mackinlay’s hideous decision to vote against giving children a nutritious meal during the pandemic when people are struggling. Even Roger Gale had the decency to abstain.”
Mr Mackinlay says he feels funding would be better used to support projects such as Our Kitchen’s Summer Kitchen and similar community schemes, but that would be “an imprecise way of guaranteeing that every eligible child nationally would be covered, hence the voucher scheme that was adopted.”
In correspondence with Newington primary head teacher Cliff Stokes the MP said: “I am making enquiries of where and how a government ring-fenced allocation of £1.669million to KCC in August, entirely for FSM style support, has been used and how much is left and available. This ‘Local Authority Welfare Fund’ appears to have been entirely overlooked amongst the fizz and misinformation of the week.
Through the Kent Together Helpline, set up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak and working in partnership with District and Borough Councils, thousands of vulnerable people in Kent have already been supported and protected from hardship and isolation during the crisis.
“We and our partners have been working to provide emergency assistance to families most at risk,” said KCC leader Roger Gough.
“I want to reassure anyone that needs financial assistance that this support is there and has always been there. And now, during this half term break, I want to ensure that those who need help and support are really able to get it.
“Whilst the last few months have presented many challenges, the Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on the strength of partnerships and community spirit, and this has helped us all in supporting those who are most vulnerable in our communities.
“I strongly encourage anyone who needs help, whether during this half-term or indeed at any time, to contact us for help.”
If your child is eligible for free school meals and you are in need of financial assistance this half term you can get in touch by visiting Kent.gov.uk/Kenttogether
You can also call the helpline on 03000 41 92 92.