THE decision of all but five Conservative MPs to oppose a motion which would have given meal vouchers to eligible children has sparked debate on what a Government should be doing to help its most vulnerable citizens.

Here, Margaret Sandercock, former head of Blenheim Primary School, in Leigh, and former inspector outlines her view.

As a former headteacher and inspector, I have to say how disappointing it is that local MPs voted against the free school meals vouchers being extended over the half-term break.

How our MPs can reconcile themselves with this decision, when they have expenses claims on top of their salary and a possible salary increase, I do not know. It doesn’t look fair to me.

Some parents have had such a struggle. They have had no chance to ‘budget’ or plan.

They have been living hand-to-mouth through ten years of austerity and now, this horrendous year has just been the last straw - and children should not be the ones to suffer. I have read about MPs’ expenses and I don’t believe my MP is an unscrupulous person - doesn’t claim, as some seem to do (if we are to believe social media) for things like chocolate or arm chairs.

However, the fact remains that an expenses claim of £20,000, I think, does bring the allocation from the public purse to almost £100,000.

Most MPs have a similar or larger income. This is way beyond the realms of thinking for many families who have struggled with cuts in hours, job losses and a general loss of income over many months.

The Tory Government says it has given lump sums to councils to support vulnerable families, but by doing this, they have added a tier of bureaucracy that is majorly frustrating.

Applications for grants and benefits take time and often seem to be rejected, triggering more delay, whilst an appeal is lodged. Will this money get added to family income for vulnerable children, without question, I ask?

Claiming for benefits can cause anxiety and stress over a long period - it can be time-consuming and tedious. The need for a meal on the table for a child in a vulnerable family at half term is immediate.

Hungry children need feeding now. Half term week is now. It would have been good to think the government could have accepted that, and given free meal vouchers for half term and then, maybe, sorted out with local councils regarding the Christmas holiday arrangements.

Children should not be the ones to suffer. Thankfully, communities are showing a huge measure of charity, and we take our hats off to them and thank them warmly. But this should not be how things are, in a wealthy country.

I’m sorry but I must agree to differ with our MPs’ voting on this - I do feel that at this stage of the pandemic, the government has got the allocation of additional funding for the vulnerable very wrong.