Labour Party members stage paper plate protest outside Conservative MP's Sheffield office as free school meals row rages on
Labour Party members gathered outside the office of the only Conservative MP in Sheffield today as part of a campaign to provide free school meals to vulnerable children.
A crowd of more than 20, wearing face coverings, gathered at Miriam Cates’, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, office at Maria House, Fox Valley Way.
They held banners and placed paper plates bearing messages including “you betrayed us”, “you let us down” and "Miriam Cates, they need food on their plate" at her doorstep. It mirrors similar protests taking place around the country.
Lee Rock, Sheffield Labour Left convenor, said: “Miriam Cates needs to recognise that leaving poor children without food is an appalling failure of government.
“Headlines about heartless Tories are fully justified when you consider that MPs get subsidised meals in Westminster and are due to vote on a three percent pay rise for themselves.
“Ms Cates was elected to represent the people of this constituency which according to recent figures is ranked 340 most deprived out of 533 constituencies in England.
“Around one in ten children in her area are officially in poverty yet she quibbles about whether a supermarket voucher should be given to such children to feed them in the holidays.
“We are here to tell her that she is wrong, and the government needs to drop these pathetic excuses and deliver yet another u-turn on such a Scrooge like policy. If she doesn’t change her mind, then the people of this area will know she chooses to represent only some of her constituents and ignores the neediest.”
Speaking about the protest, Ms Cates said: “I came into politics to make a difference, and to make sure those most in need were given the opportunities others have.
"I doubt there is a single person in this country who would stand by and let a child go hungry and those who suggest otherwise do no service to themselves.
"It is quite right families and communities come together to find new ways to support each other during this global pandemic. There is no question the government should also be expected to play its part, and I think it has.
"I fundamentally believe there are better ways to help those who are facing challenging times than through a supermarket voucher. It is far more valuable to put more money in the pockets of families by supporting wages and increasing Universal Credit. As each of us faces more restrictions this, alongside the more targeted support being provided through local authorities, is the best way to help ensure every child is properly fed during the school holidays.”
There are 22,700 in Sheffield who are eligible to receive free school meals.
Locally, Sheffield Council said it would provide a free school meals scheme this half term and in the Christmas holidays.
For more information on how to access the scheme, go to https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/home/schools-childcare/school-meals