Privatised Covid Food Aid and Other Examples of Politics in Theory and Practice?

For children in low income families, who normally receive means-tested free school meals, support is provided via cash payments, supermarket vouchers or food parcels, the last being the  preferred choice of the Department for Education.

H. M. G spends millions on food parcel contracts to private companies. Two such, worth £208 million, awarded without tendering, resulted in parcels which did not meet minimum nutritional standards and had a 69% mark up on what could have have been provided by supermarkets. Welsh Local Authority parcels have been excellent and have included recipes. English children have received paltry amounts of poor food, shabilly packaged, sometimes in bank coin bags. 

The Welsh Government is a Labour/Lib-Dem/Independent coalition. It might be labelled “Left-Centre”.

The over-priced, low quality food parcels provided by large companies, often without tender contracts, are preferred by the “English” Government. Such seems to be a pattern, as is indicated by without-tender Personal Protection Equipment contracts, some of which resulted in dangerous equipment. “Track and Trace” contracts were the same.

The U. K./”English” government is single party. It is well to the right of the political spectrum.

This government was elected with the support of many Labour voters who believed that they, and their children, would be better off with a party which offered them benefits, aka “levelling up” and freedom from foreign interference.The actual Brexit agreement, as so far revealed, indicates that you cannot live and function without contact and involvement with other individuals, groups and nations. It demonstrates that the promises of Brexit have not been kept.

Perhaps such dissonance between election promises and hints is not surprising. The more a party receives/relies upon donations from people with “big money” the less they are likely to use the powers and opportunities, gained through elected office, to harm or offend such people and their interests. However, unless a party appeals to a lot of people with modest to negative wealth, they are unlikely to be elected. Hence the apparent discrepancy between election “promises” and hints and government actions.

Might it be less a discrepancy and more a connection?

“Big money” interests are well served by allocating them government money which comes from the “small money” people via the tax systems. 

Perhaps the contrasts between the quality of English and Welsh food parcels (alphabetical order) might indicate that a Labour-Liberal  coalition for England/the U. K. (alphabetical order) might benefit the majority of its citizens, not least, the children?

Please consider signing the “Right to Food” petition cited in this article!

* Steve Trevathan is chairperson of Lyme Regis and Marshwood Vale Liberal Democrats.

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  • I am totally in agreement with what Steve says. There are other dimensions to the issue though. One is the size of majority. The present English government can do what it pleases pleases, as long as it can keep its backbenchers quiet. Then of course there is the issue of following recognised procedures Clearly the procedure used was – “who do we know who could do this?” Presumably these would be people they knew.
    A basic problem though is that there is at many levels a failure in basic management, To me this is what shone through in the Dominic case and the trip to Durham. Both he and the prime minister where paid by public money. Is the normal process really to have a chat with the boss when serious allegations are made? And then to provide time for the accused to give just their side of the story? No independent investigation!
    I submit this is strong evidence that these things happen, and then are not corrected, when one party has complete control. This was the reality of what happened in Russia.
    We need to look for ways of building in accountability into decision making at every level.

  • David Garlick 31st Jan '21 - 9:55am

    Agree with everything said here.

    Starngely quiet from some I would have expected to comment in some sort of denial.

    Must be too hot to handle.

  • Steve Trevethan 31st Jan '21 - 1:31pm

    Thanks to, and agreement with, T. H. and D.G.!

  • suzanne fletcher 31st Jan '21 - 4:20pm

    there is also the issue as to who is eligible for free school meal vouchers. this is really complicated, and does not affect many, but important to those it does. The family I helped last week now have £30 a week, a huge help.
    If you don’t read further ( and I don’t blame you if you don’t) it shows how drawing tight boundaries causes no end of problems.
    Whilst most asylum seeker children are eligible, there has been a lot of problems for some who are on what is called Section 4. ( generally one’s who have been refused leave to remain and are appealing). After a fight to get them to be eligible for vouchers instead of meals, last year when schools closed, and then to let them know that they could claim them it was mainly sorted. But now schools are back but children are being sent home to isolate if necessary, we are back to them being on vouchers – but told they aren’t eligible. Again how do you get the message through to schools and councils – and the families that they can ask for them.
    It has been helpful that Daisy Cooper put a PQ on the issue, that has helped to clarify matters for some:
    Question: Daisy Cooper
    To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure that families who have no recourse to public funds can access free school meals.

    22. 10. 20 This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:
    1. To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure that children from families that have no recourse to public funds can access free school meals.
    2. To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the effect of Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 on the accessibility of free school meals for asylum-seekers.
    Answer: Vicky Ford:
    We have temporarily extended free school meal eligibility to include some children of groups of people who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF). This extension includes children of families receiving support under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, and is subject to a maximum income threshold of £28,500 for families outside of London and £31,200 for families inside of London.

  • Steve Trevethan 1st Feb '21 - 10:18am

    Thanks to S. F. for her detailed and powerful comment!
    Thanks for and appreciation of the most impressive emotional and practical support for those who are neglected through too many of our current “support” systems!
    There seems to be too much dinner gong and not enough actual food.
    A plate of food is worth infinitely more than a library of alleged reasons to “justify” avoidable hunger.

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