Sustain and Good Law Project have begun the formal process of issuing judicial review proceedings after the Government refused to guarantee to prevent child hunger over the summer.
Campaigners have begun the formal process of issuing judicial review proceedings after the Government refused to commit to continuing the children’s food voucher scheme for low-income families in England over the summer. The crowdfunded legal challenge is being brought by the food charity Sustain and the Good Law Project.
Over 1.3 million children in England rely on free school meals for at least one decent meal each day. The Government recognised the importance of continuing to provide free school meals whilst schools are closed when they introduced a national voucher scheme at the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown. Following public pressure, the scheme was extended to cover the Easter holidays and the May half-term.
But last week, the Government announced that it will not continue the national voucher scheme. Sustain and the Good Law Project immediately wrote to the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson MP, seeking clarification of what action he will take to address the issue of holiday hunger over the summer holidays. The Government responded that this was still being “actively discussed” and, as legal proceedings had not at that time begun, did not feel obliged to respond. With just over a month until the school holidays start, and as there has still not been a firm commitment on the Government’s part to continue providing free school meals over the summer months, campaigners have now submitted a pre-action protocol letter, the formal preliminary step to issuing judicial review proceedings.
The Good Law Project and Sustain have instructed Jamie Burton of Doughty Street Chambers and solicitors Simpson Millar to act, both of whom have agreed to do so at discounted rates.
They will be asking for a court hearing in July - before the summer holidays begin.
Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive of the food charity Sustain, said:
"A Government minister claimed last week 'We will work around the clock to ensure that nobody goes hungry as a result of this crisis'. That clock is ticking loudly for children and their families, with summer looming as a serious food crisis in the making, with hundreds of thousands of children likely to go hungry. We urgently need the Government to commit to a new funding package in place of the voucher scheme to help struggling families cope over the long summer break, so that children do not fall even further behind in both their health and their education. Food banks, schools and local authorities are struggling to keep up with emergency food aid. We sincerely hope this judicial review will prompt the Government to step up to their responsibilities and prevent children going hungry.”
Jolyon Maugham, Director of Good Law Project, said:
“Hundreds of millions of pounds of public funds are going in loans to companies headquartered in tax havens. We are one of the richest countries in the world. We think Government’s first priority should be to ensure the 1.3 million poorest children have food on their plates.”
Right to Food
Right to Food: Everyone has the right to enjoy safe, nutritious and sustainable food. This project advocates the realisation of the Right to Food in UK law.
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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.