Tag Archives: Free

Shameless Tory Children’s Minister tries to steal credit for Marcus Rashford’s school meals campaign

Brazen: Ford’s false claims are disproved by her own voting record.

How brazen can these Tories be?

Children’s Minister Vicky Ford has told Good Morning Britain viewers that she – not Marcus Rashford – was the person who got the government to extend free school meals into the holidays during the Covid-19 crisis, and who created lockdown meal vouchers.

She said she was not influenced by Rashford’s campaign at all.

Her claim has been ridiculed by those of us who can read Hansard, which shows that she voted against demands for such schemes – twice.

See for yourself:

Social media commentators have used the claim to make Ford a target for ridicule – and rightly so:

I want to know what Marcus Rashford – who received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List last year for his  services to vulnerable children in the UK during COVID-19, has to say about Ms Ford’s claims.

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Policeman who attacked terrified woman WHO WAS JUST WALKING HOME is spared jail

Police: even in the illustration it seems the policeman doesn’t want to be anywhere near the police woman.

It’s as though the last two weeks never happened.

The man attacking a woman while she was walking home in this video was a serving police officer – and remains a serving police officer after appearing in court and admitting the offence:

Let’s look a little more closely at that point about the victim facing an uphill battle to get justice:

So the first thing Warwickshire police did on receiving the complaint was ignore it.

Let us be clear: this was an unprovoked and violent attack by a large, drunken man, perpetrated at night against a much smaller woman.

And rather than treat it with the seriousness it deserved – especially as it related to one of their own – our law guardians did nothing.

I understand they would have brushed it under the carpet altogether if the CCTV footage had not been produced.

As it is, we can see that Oliver Banfield, 25, hurled a stream of misogynistic abuse at Emma Holmer, 11 years his senior, as he tried to employ techniques he learned from police training to drag her to the ground and put her in a headlock.

Apparently this has been described as an “unlawful arrest”. I’m sure you can think of a much better description for what is clearly a hate attack against a woman.

And how was she affected?

Miss Homer said the attack had a devastating effect on her.

She has suffered from anxiety, stress, panic attacks and insomnia and is undergoing therapy and counselling.

Miss Homer said being attacked by a police officer had shaken her belief system “to the core”.

“I often ask myself if the impact of the attack would have been so severe if my assailant was not a police officer,” she said.

“During the assault as I struggled to get to safety I was sure this drunk man was fulfilling a violent cop movie fantasy.

“To be verbally abused with misogynistic slang, grabbed by the neck and forced to the floor on a dark road by a drunk man, a foot taller than me, is terrifying.

“But to then find out he was a police officer shook my belief system to its core.

“Immediately after the assault I was in shock. I could not sleep

“I found myself compulsively running through the streets going through the events of the assault.

“What if I hadn’t got away? What if he had attacked another woman drunk?”

What, indeed?

Yet despite the aggravating features of this case – the use of police techniques, the misogynistic hate speech, and the slowness of his colleagues to prosecute Banfield – a judge at a magistrates court let this man – who should be stripped of his police career – walk free.

He was ordered to pay £500 compensation and £180 court costs, and was put under a 14 week curfew that means he may not leave his house between 7pm and 7am – after he cried off community service, his lawyer saying it would be difficult for him to work with criminals.

WITH criminals? Perhaps somebody should point out that this man IS a criminal.

And let’s remind ourselves that Sarah Everard was “just walking home” (the words have been used as a slogan ever since the incident) when she was attacked and murdered – allegedly by another serving policeman.

Two incidents cannot suggest that such behaviour is epidemic in the UK’s police. But they are enough to instil fear in every woman who has to walk home in the dark because they know they cannot automatically rely on the police to keep them safe.

When a trust is betrayed, it can be extremely difficult to win back. Sometimes it is impossible.

It seems clear that the police – and the justice system – isn’t even bothering to try.

Source: Off-duty police officer, 25, who attacked ‘terrified’ woman walking home spared jail – Mirror Online

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Nothing for you if you’re sick, disabled, at school or in care: reaction to the Tory budget

They all do this: but the way Rishi Sunak held the red box indicated there wasn’t much in it. And there wasn’t.

Rishi Sunak’s budget has shown he is a diehard Tory, with concessions for businesses while those of us in need can go whistle.

He has claimed his hands are tied by huge Covid-19-related debts – but we all know that he has already paid them off, by the simple means of creating the money needed to do so.

And his big plans for the future were pathetic: new ‘free ports’ that have always been a bad idea, and an investment bank to replace the one a previous Tory government sold off a few years ago.

We are ruled by intellectual pygmies – and that is being harsh on the pygmies.

I watched the budget speech and commentated on it on Twitter, so I can provide a first-hand account of the announcements – but first, I’d like to go straight to what wasn’t announced, with comments from people who were reading at the time:

So the people who did all the hard work during the Covid-19 crisis will receive no reward for their sacrifices at all – even though many of them sacrificed their lives, contracting the virus and dying because Matt Hancock couldn’t be bothered to supply proper personal protective equipment (PPE) at the right time.

However:

People with disabilities who did not receive the £20 benefit uplift because they are on so-called “legacy” benefits will still receive nothing more, even though the uplift will remain in place until September. After then, it seems people who lost their jobs because of Covid-19 will fall over a so-called “cliff edge”, with the uplift cancelled, forcing them to live on much less.

The Tories have made a major issue of education in the crisis, demanding that our children must go back to school as soon as possible in order to catch up on what they have missed – but Rishi Sunak has provided no extra facilities for this in his budget. It seems it was all talk and – in fact – the plan is to reopen a major vector for transmission of Covid and hope that the increase in infections – and deaths – won’t be noticed amid the falling numbers triggered by the vaccination programme.

And after years of promising to fix problems in the social care system – that became hugely pronounced when 30,000 people died in care homes because of Tory stupidity – Sunak is breaking that promise by offering nothing.

Meanwhile, those who profited hugely from the pandemic – either by being perfectly situated to continue selling goods to people in lockdown or by receiving government Covid-related contracts to provide services at hugely-inflated costs (many of which were not actually provided because the contractors were not qualified to do so) are to get off scot-free because Sunak has backed away from calls to impose a wealth tax.

So, what has he done?

Well, he carped on a lot about borrowing a huge amount of money to pay for Covid-19. That was a stream of lies from start to finish, as I pointed out:

So we were led to expect tax hikes a-go-go. But this didn’t happen:

The refers to income tax, National Insurance and VAT. However – and this is indeed a ‘however’:

This is the amount you earn before you start paying tax, or before you start paying it at a higher rate. Because these thresholds are frozen, it seems more people will pay at a higher rate due to wage inflation, so there will be a de facto increase in taxes. But this depends on people receiving pay rises to cover their costs and Tory policy over the last 11 years has been to discourage that – it’s the reason real take-home pay has fallen by thousands of pounds per year since 2010.

This was the only increase in taxation, and it is only on a tax on profits. So firms that pay corporation tax can avoid it by ensuring that they make no profit from 2023. The best way to do that is to invest in infrastructure and wages (by employing more people, perhaps).

It would be wrong to say that Sunak’s budget does nothing for ordinary people – but it’s all based around existing Covid-related schemes:

Sunak went on to announce plans for government investment. The main points were:

But “free ports” are not new, nor are they likely to help:

Here’s an interesting point:

Mr McDonnell himself promptly answered it:

There was also some muttering about policies that give a nod to the environment but if you blinked, you missed them – and This Writer blinked. They certainly don’t constitute a “Green Industrial Revolution”!

As Tory budgets go, this is not the disaster for working-class people that it could have been – although the main hits have been offset, so it may be a few months or years until we can know the effects for sure.

The lack of any hard taxes or austerity measures suggests a tacit admission that Covid-19 really is bought and paid-for, and there won’t be any real need to pay for it again.

So This Writer is left with a huge sense of anticlimax. I was expecting to be fearful after today; instead I feel let down.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Why did ‘celebrity’ Twitter users force suspension of ordinary woman? Because they could

Some of you have been kind enough to notice that This Writer’s @MidWalesMike account has been in the Twitter sin bin since the beginning of the month because somebody didn’t like one of my articles about the court case against Rachel Riley.

That is dangerous enough – it’s clearly an attempt to create a “chilling” effect on my crowdfunding (that, fortunately, has failed – the fund has nearly raised £125,000 since it started nearly two years ago).

But now I read that another Twitter user, who apparently has no public profile at all (she’s not a celebrity or a journalist/blogger or a member of the commentatorati), has found her account suspended, simply for expressing her dislike of an actress.

The actress in question was Tracy-Ann Oberman, who apparently searches the social media platform for any adverse comment about her. Spotting this one, it seems she claimed that the lady in question had to be an anti-Semite, even though no part of the view she expressed in her tweet conveyed any such sentiment. See for yourself:

“It’s a sin was doing so well then I saw Tracy Ann Oberman left a bad taste in my mouth … trying to quickly forget I’ve seen her.”

“Caroline do you think that YOU may be one of those intolerant bigots that Russell is talking about in #itsasin

“Seems you’ve missed the entire point of the series. You and the rest of this thread. Oh dear. @cst @UKLabour @LabourAgainstAS”

The @ tags at the end of Oberman’s tweet are significant. She was tagging in the Community Security Trust and Labour Against Anti-Semitism – both highly vocal self-proclaimed crusaders against anti-Semitism (although both could equally well be described as witch-hunters against people targeted with false claims) along with the Labour Party, because ‘Caroline’ could be seen holding a Labour membership card in her profile picture.

The implication is clear: Oberman wanted to brand ‘Caroline’ an anti-Semite and she wanted to bring Labour’s attention to it. In order to provoke disciplinary action, perhaps? Because this person had expressed an opinion about her appearance in a TV show. Overkill?

No. Overkill is what followed. Oberman’s tweet led to a dogpile so vile that even some of its participants later withdrew their comments and apologised.

I won’t go into the details but you can read about it on Zelo Street if you like.

Then – apparently after pressure from the usual cohort of “blue tick” celebrities – ‘Caroline’ had her Twitter account suspended.

I repeat that she had not expressed a single opinion that was not well within her right. If she doesn’t like Tracy-Ann Oberman, it is not for Tracy-Ann Oberman to take offence and have her hounded off of Twitter. For all Tracy-Ann Oberman knew, ‘Caroline’ had perfectly good reasons for disliking her.

Those reasons don’t have to be restricted to her acting, either. I refer to her “clitoris” comment in response to David Quantick, and her (clearly racist, in my opinion) “Is Ping Pong the Thai help?” query in response to a tweet from Liz Hurley that her parrot had spoken in human language for the first time.

Nevertheless, Tracy-Ann Oberman reacted the way she did, and now an innocent member of the public has been hounded off of Twitter.

You may be wondering why Tracy-Ann Oberman feels justified in having acted as she did. I’ll tell you the answer:

Because there is a court ruling that says she cannot be held to account for it.

It’s the ruling of Mrs Justice Collins Rice in the case brought by Oberman’s friend Rachel Riley against This Writer.

Riley’s legal team had put forward an argument that she could not possibly be held responsible for the behaviour of her followers, who abused and harassed a teenage girl with mental health problems who had had the temerity to criticise her for accusing Owen Jones (and Jeremy Corbyn) of anti-Semitism.

Riley had tagged celebrities, politicians and so-called activists against anti-Semitism into her tweets responding to the girl, who had received many hundreds of responses critical of her as a result – forcing her to quit Twitter several times for the sake of her mental health.

But the judge agreed that Riley was not responsible. Her ruling means nobody else can be, either.

And this is the result.

It is hugely damaging – not only for the safety of people like ‘Caroline’, but for everybody’s Article 10 right to Freedom of Expression according to the Human Rights Act (she was hounded off the platform for expressing an opinion about an actress, remember).

It also contradicts the intentions of Online Harms legislation that is due to pass through Parliament soon. Part of the proposed law would make participation in online dogpiles a criminal offence with serious penalties attached.

As everybody should be aware by now, I have appealed against Mrs Justice Collins Rice’s ruling.

I hope that judges at the Court of Appeal agree that it has created the opportunity for significant harm – and has already caused such harm in the case of ‘Caroline’.

If so, then we may also hope that the ruling is rescinded and the Obermans of this world lose their legal protection.

My case is still going on, I am still crowdfunding to pay its costs, and you are invited to contribute in the time-honoured ways:

Consider making a donation yourself, if you can afford it, via the CrowdJustice page.

Email your friends, asking them to pledge to the CrowdJustice site.

Post a link to Facebook, asking readers to pledge.

On Twitter, tweet in support, quoting the address of the appeal.

If you haven’t donated before, perhaps this story will encourage you.

After all, they might come for you next.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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So much for ‘free trade’ between the UK and EU! Have you seen how much tax the TORIES are charging us?

Money, money, money: the UK government is coining it in VAT and other taxes since Brexit finally happened on January 1. And YOU are paying.

Tales of shoppers having to pay huge extra costs to have goods delivered from the EU post-Brexit are proliferating.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t have free trade!

It means our own – Tory – government is charging us extra in taxes.

It seems possible that this was the intention all along.

So in the BBC story (link below), one shopper was lumbered with a £12 extra cost for a £50 item.

UK VAT accounts for £10 of the extra £12 that Sascha was asked to pay. Sellers may also be charging higher delivery fees to cover any extra paperwork or border delays they may face.

On items costing less than £135, the charge is applied at the point of sale.

Another buyer was asked to pay £123 on top of £600 (and £25 delivery) for two designer handbags from Paris – when they arrived. This was still UK VAT, the BBC reckons, but because the items cost more than £135, the charge was applied when the items reached their destination.

A woman who received earrings as a gift, posted by a friend, was charged £28.85 by parcel handler DHL, even though they were sent before Christmas. Deliveries ran late so they arrived after January 1 – and came with the added taxes.

Gifts worth less than £39 don’t attract any extra charges… But gifts over that, like gold earrings, are eligible for VAT and (if it’s over £135) customs duties. And it’s always the recipient who receives the bill.

Import VAT applies for second-hand items as well as gifts, even if bought from a private individual.

EBay already has its system set up to charge the extra VAT upfront. Amazon says VAT will always be charged at point of sale on its site too. But the system won’t be running smoothly yet everywhere

Oh – and it works in reverse, too. A person in France, buying a £150 pair of boots from the UK, was asked to pay 88 Euros in import duty, breaking down to 43 Euros VAT, 30 Euros customs tax and a 15 Euro handling fee.

She was able to reject the delivery – but many others may not have the option as firms are

changing their terms and conditions so that customers have to cover the extra charges, even when goods are returned.

The BBC explained:

Shoppers on the continent buying from UK firms face the same rules as UK shoppers do in reverse so Jemima would have had to pay VAT and customs charges, because the boots or the materials they were made from, originated from outside the EU.

The revelations received this response on the social media:

Goods shortages, much higher prices, but at least we’ve got blue passports eh? How many still think #Brexit was a good idea? Voluntarily kicking ourselves when we’re already down,” tweeted Sheridan Webb.

Pete Franklin added: “That normal, apparently successful, people are being surprised by this gives us a clue why we are in this mess – they simply haven’t been paying attention. ”

Perhaps Steve Feasey put it best: “When Project Fear turns out to be Project Hasn’t-Everything-Got-Dear.”

And some have added this to the list of disasters caused by Brexit since the EU referendum in 2016:

Source: Brexit parcel price shock: ‘I had to pay £30 for a gift’ – BBC News

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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After another SERIES of ‘free school meals’ scandals, Rashford demands overhaul of the whole system

Marcus Rashford: he wins campaigns against Boris Johnson’s government (unlike Keir Starmer’s Labour Party) so it is welcome that he is spearheading this call for an all-encompassing review of government policy on child food poverty.

After the second ‘Free School Meals’ scandal in three days, This Writer feels sure I was among many people who wondered why Marcus Rashford – now generally accepted as the Opposition to the Tory government in such matters – had not spoken up.

Now we know.

Rashford, who was instrumental in forcing the government to provide free school meals during Covid-19 lockdowns and during holidays – including Christmas – when the Tories wanted children to starve, has not confined himself to a single FSM-related issue.

Instead he has joined with celebrity chefs and campaigners to demand a full review of Tory policy on child food poverty which they rightly say is not fit for purpose.

They have written a letter to Boris Johnson and his trained-ape-serving-as-Education-Secretary, Gavin Williamson, here:

It deserves to be reproduced in full:

 We are writing to you to express our concern that the issue of Free School Meals risks once again becoming divisive, and to encourage the Government to undertake an urgent comprehensive review of Free School Meal policy to reform the system for the longer term. We are ready and willing to support your Government in whatever way we can to make this review a reality and to help develop a set of recommendations that everyone can support. It is only by working together that we end child food poverty.

We know that all political parties agree on the outcome that we are aiming for – ensuring that all children have access to enough health, good-quality food to fulfil their potential. Last Autumn, the Government announced several very positive new measures to help combat child hunger, and we strongly welcomed those announcements. This week, we were heartened to see the Department for Education’s swift response to reports of inadequate Free School Meal food parcels being provided by private companies. The robustness of the message from you and the Secretary of State on this issue was very welcome.

I can only assume the last two sentences of this paragraph were included to butter Johnson up, as most of the nation was horrified that Johnson had contracted out responsibility to provide £30 food parcels to private, profit-making firms who did what came naturally – skimmed off five-sixths of the cash in profit and provided £5 worth of food to cover children’s meals for 10 days.

Some Tories even went on the record to say they couldn’t understand the fuss as this was only supposed to provide for a single meal in the day – without realising that their right-wing policies have stamped on families so hard that this may be the only food those children see in a day.

Despite these positive commitments, we strongly feel that now (following the series of problems which have arisen over school food vouchers, holiday provision and food parcels since the start of the pandemic) is the right moment for you to step back and review the policy in more depth. The signatories to this letter urge the Government to conduct an urgent comprehensive review into Free School Meal policy across the UK to provide recommendations for the next Spending Review.

This would allow the Government to provide strong national leadership on children’s food so that our nation’s most disadvantaged children and their families, already disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, don’t continue to bear the brunt. In the first lockdown (March-August), 2.3 million children experienced food insecurity and during the 2020 summer holidays 850,000 children reported that they or their families visited a food bank. Free School Meals are a very important part of the safety net that protects children from impoverished families from hunger and poor nutrition.

We believe the review should be debated in Parliament and published before the 2021 summer holidays. The process will require collaboration from politicians in all the devolved nations with responsibility for school food in their regions, and must involve close consultation with children and young people, as well as teachers, charities, NGOs, frontline catering staff and school meals service providers. It should draw on evidence of food insecurity and health inequalities. We stand ready to provide our full support to the review process.

And experience tells us that the only people Boris Johnson’s government likes to consult are those who are likely to agree with what he wants to do; dissenting voices are ignored. This will make it very difficult for the Tories to devise a strategy that works for any group wider than the Conservative government of Boris Johnson.

We recommend that its scope include:

1. The current eligibility thresholds for Free School Meals. The Government should seek to ensure disadvantaged children are not excluded from Free School Meal eligibility (in line with National Food Strategy recommendations) and to work with the Devolved Administrations to eliminate disparities between the nations. Current estimates show 2 in 5 UK children under the poverty line are missing out. The ongoing eligibility for children from No Recourse to Public Funds should be address explicitly.

2. How funding for Free School Meals can deliver the biggest nutritional and educational impact, supporting children’s learning and well-being throughout the school day and during the school holidays (including breakfast provision and the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme). This should include whether the current allowance for Free School Meals is adequate and whether funding for national breakfasts adequately covers all who would benefit from access to provision.

3. How schools can be supported to deliver the best quality school meals which adhere to school food standards and which ensure the poorest children receive the best possible offer. This should include introducing mandatory monitoring and evaluation on an ongoing basis of Free School Meal take-up, the quality/nutritional adequacy of meals, and examining how the financial transparency of the current system can be improved.

4. What we have learned from Covid-19 and its impact on children in low-income families and the implications of this for school food policy for the next 5 years, as the country recovers.

5. Ensuring that existing school food programmes (such as Free School Meals, holiday provision and breakfast provision) eliminate experiences of stigma for the poorest students. Review the impact that Universal Infant Free School Meals has had on stigma, health, and education.

6. The role of family income (wages and benefits) in enabling families to afford quality food in and outside of school time and during the holidays with choice and dignity.

The Tory response to this should be interesting. Tories habitually say families should be able to provide for their own children, despite the fact that their own policies have squeezed family incomes beyond breaking-point. It’s no good saying people should be able to afford things when you are responsible for ensuring that they can’t!

This review would provide the Government with the opportunity to future-proof its policy on school food, and to carefully consider how best to support low-income children and families in the aftermath of the pandemic. It would also demonstrate the Government’s commitment to tackling child food poverty in the longer term and be a significant step towards a comprehensive long-term plan.

I foresee difficulties.

Already the Welsh Government – which is run by the Labour Party – has taken to Twitter to let people in Wales know that the problems created by the Tories in England do not affect them:

The Tories are hardly going to want to work with organisations that are merrily scoring points off them.

School food is essential in supporting the health and learning of our most disadvantaged children. Now, at a time when children have missed months of in-school learning and the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of our health, this is a vital next step.

The letter is signed by Rashford, Jamie Oliver, Emma Thompson, Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and by representatives of Food Foundation, School Food Matters, Chefs in Schools, the Children Society, Children’s Food Campaign, Children’s First Alliance, Feeding Britain, Soil Association, The Bread and Butter Thing, Mayor’s Fund for London, The School Food People, Meals & More, Poverty and Inequality Commission, Independent Food Aid Network UK, Impact on Urban Health, The Fair Education Alliance, the WI, ASSIST FM, Magic Breakfast, Turn2Us, Buttle UK, Greater Manchester Poverty Action, End Child Poverty Coalition, TACT, Scottish Qut of School Care Network, Khulisa UK, The Mighty Creatives, The Equality Trust, One Parent Families Scotland, End Furniture Poverty, Family Action, USDAW, Child Poverty Action Group, Biteback 2030, Just Fair, Rose Hill & Donnington Advice Centre, Oxford, Co-Op Retail, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, The British Psychological Society, British Association of Social Workers, Association of School and College Leaders, King’s Cross Academy, Academies Enterprise Trust, Cabot Learning Federation, Co-op Academies Trust, The Shared Learning Trust, The Eden Academy Trust, LDBS Academies Trusts, National Governance Association, Centre for Literacy in Primary Education and Teach First.

I include the whole list because I think it is important for us to understand the sheer number of organisations that now exist to address children’s food poverty – or have to address it as part of their wider activities.

This has only become such a major issue because the Conservatives have forced so many families into food poverty.

So it seems worthwhile to raise the issue of whether we should stop allowing Conservative Party members to form governments that inflict such misery, such starvation, on so many millions of us, just so a tiny minority can live in the kind of luxury that most of us cannot even imagine.

There’s only one question left to ask:

Why is Rashford doing the Labour Party’s job? If Jeremy Corbyn was still party leader, Labour would be all over this.

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After ‘hamper’ fiasco, Tories want to deny kids free school meals during half term week. But what are they hiding with all this noise?

Scandal: only two days ago, the Tory government came under attack for letting an outsourcing company skim £25 in profit from the cost of a £30 food hamper FOR CHILDREN. Now the Tories are trying to confuse parents by forcing them to apply to their local council for food vouchers over half term week. Is it all a big distraction from something else they don’t want us to see?

Isn’t it incredible?

Days after they were found to have been starving children by outsourcing £30 ‘free school meal’ hampers to a company that provided only £5 worth of food and kept the other £25 to itself, the Conservative government has announced a plan to starve schoolkids during half term week.

They say they won’t allow schools to provide free meals to pupils who usually get them; instead, local councils have been given responsibility to provide food under the Covid Winter Grant Scheme.

This scheme provided £170 million to councils in December. Under it, families have to apply to their local council for help, and will get a £15 voucher for each qualifying child.

It seems a deliberate attempt to cause confusion by switching schemes just when families need clarity.

And how much of that £170m fund has been spent already? It’s not a lot, divided across the whole of England (other UK countries have equivalent schemes, according to the government).

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, warned that switching schemes meant “yet more disruption to free schools meals could lie ahead in half term”.

He said that rather than allowing schools to carry on providing food it would cause an “unnecessary logistical nightmare”.

He said ministers should now “hang their heads in shame” for threatening more “chaos and confusion” over providing food.

“These are battles which should not have to be repeatedly fought,” said Mr Courtney.

But they are.

And both the media and the public tend to focus on recurring issues like this, to the exclusion of other matters happening at the time.

School meals don’t cost a huge amount – in government terms – and it won’t cause too much upset if the Tories are forced to capitulate again.

So This Writer is left to ask what else is happening that the Tories don’t want us to know?

Source: Row over half term free school meals plan – BBC News

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#FreeSchoolMeals scandal: ‘£30’ shopping basket provides just ‘£5’ of food because the Tories outsourced provision

Let’s not beat around the bush: your lovable Conservative government led by cuddly Boris Johnson deliberately starved schoolchildren by outsourcing free school meals to a very expensive company – because it was part of the so-called ‘chumocracy’.

The government had promised to provide £30 to feed children for periods lasting 10 days.

But rather than giving vouchers to parents so they could buy the food themselves, or even tasking local authorities to do it, the Department for Education outsourced the job to private, profit-making firms.

One of these firms is called Chartwells. It seems it won the contract as part of the so-called ‘chumocracy’ – it is part of the food service giant Compass Group whose former chairman, Paul Walsh, was once a member of David Cameron’s business advisory group.

Instead of putting all £30 into food hampers for hungry children, it seems Chartwells provided just £5.22 worth of food and kept the remaining £24.78 as profit.

Food parcels have been brought in to replace £30 vouchers given to parents to spend in supermarkets as schools close for remote learning. But one mum valued the contents of her parcel at no more than £5.22, if bought from Asda.

She was given two jacket potatoes, a can of beans, eight single cheese slices, a loaf of bread, two carrots, three apples, two Soreen Malt Lunchbox Loaves, three Frubes, some pasta and one tomato.

Chartwells has protested that it followed Department for Education guidelines – which throws the blame back towards the Tories – but has also admitted that details of the contents of its hampers do not conform with its own specifications.

Whichever way you slice it, someone has been creaming cash from this scheme and allowing children to starve – and the only reason they’ve managed it is because of the Tory obsession with privatisation.

It is a ridiculous state of affairs. Everybody in the Tory government, from Johnson down, knows that giving a contract to a private company means it will keep some of the cash for itself.

So a claim to be providing £30 to feed children is a lie. They were always providing £30 to their friends in food companies.

Sadly, many of the parents whose children are now being forced to starve on pennies-worth of food per day actually voted for this treatment in December 2019.

The question has to be asked: why weren’t vouchers provided to parents?

Was it because another Tory – Ben Bradley – put out a false claim that they would squander the money on “crack dens” and “brothels”, even though the vouchers that existed at the time specifically prohibited their use for such purposes?

It only takes a piece of fake news like this from one influential source to influence large numbers of people into believing the lie, and I wonder whether this was what enabled the Tory government to starve children in the way it has.

Think of it this way: Isn’t it odd that many people get outraged at the (faked) possibility of someone spending a fraction of a food voucher on alcohol (more likely than Bradley’s choices but still impossible) – but don’t bat an eyelid when private firms take 80 per cent of food vouchers for their own profits?

Perhaps the most pertinent comment on this whole shabby affair is the following:

Sadly, it would have been necessary for millions of people to have voted a different way in 2019 for that to have happened. And something stopped them:

Source: Free school meals firm with Tory links shamed over £30 shopping basket | Metro News

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Education Secretary denies refusing cheap internet for children, to ensure they couldn’t learn at home

Gavin Williamson: so stupid, he thinks his daft excuse about quality control will hold water. His Tory government doesn’t have any?

It seems Gavin Williamson is making a fuss about this.

According to the Mirror,

Gavin Williamson turned down an offer to get free or cheap broadband for thousands of disadvantaged families, the Mirror has learned.

Broadband giant BT offered to supply families basic connections to allow children to access online learning with schools closed for months during the Covid-19 pandemic.

And the firm’s Chief Executive revealed they had given free wifi vouchers to the Government in June but the Department for Education ‘struggled to distribute them effectively’ and returned them.

Williamson tells a different story:

A spokesman for the education department said a pilot of the scheme had not provided “reliable and consistent” internet connection.

Who do you believe?

Well, BT is an Internet Service Provider of very long standing, with experience in providing a reliable service to many thousands – if not millions – of homes.

And the Conservative Government of which Williamson is a member has also displayed consistency – in wasting public money on services offered by cowboy companies cobbled together by Tory donors or spoilt friends of Cabinet members.

It looks like another ideologically-motivated attack on the poor; pretend the offer doesn’t meet what passes for Conservative government quality control and reject it – to ensure that poor kids miss out on the education that might otherwise give them an advantage over rich kids who tend not to have two brain cells to rub together.

How does it look to you?

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Williamson’s failures on home learning expose Tory policy stupidity on ‘Broadband Communism’

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson may be acting “to the utmost of his ability”, but so was Frank Spencer – the calamitous comedy character with whom Williamson has been compared.

If this inspires confidence in you, then you’re not thinking hard enough:

Saying the prime minister thinks Gavin Williamson is being Education Secretary “to the utmost of his ability” is not the same as saying he has “full confidence” in him.

Williamson has far too many mistakes in his recent history for any member of the public to have full confidence in him, let alone any school pupil.

Only yesterday he admitted that his Covid-19-related failures – in both policy and practice – have made it impossible to hold GCSE, AS and A level exams this year:

Perhaps you don’t grasp the enormity of the admission from what he said. Labour’s shadow Education Secretary, Kate Green, made it clear that she holds him to blame for the chaos in the education system.

The reason Williamson has cancelled the exams is that the Covid-19 crisis – and its effect on schools – has made it impossible to ensure that pupils across the UK have been educated to an equivalent standard.

The reasons for the uneven standards include the fact that teachers have been unable to plan their lessons properly due to Williamson’s unfortunate habit of announcing that schools will stay open no matter what – and then closing them.

Also, he was supposed to provide laptops to pupils, in order to ensure that they could carry on learning to an acceptable standard even if they were confined to their homes. He didn’t (or at least, he didn’t provide enough).

This has now necessitated children without laptops being added to the “vulnerable” list of youngsters who have to go to school during lockdown, alongside the kids of key workers. This amounts to another example of class warfare – kids without laptops are likely to be poor, and sending them to school exposes them to the most common vector for transmission of the killer virus:

Finally, there’s the fact that some families don’t have access to the broadband internet connections necessary to experience this kind of home learning.

The Tories now agree with Labour that this is a good idea – but it is too late to implement it in time to help this year’s crop of exam-takers.

Let us remind ourselves of the reaction – from the Tories and the mass media – when the Labour Party proposed free broadband across the UK in the run-up to the 2019 general election:

Who was right?

John McDonnell and Labour, of course (Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, that is. Kate Green, while being right about Gavin Williamson, also said that schools should stay open. That’s the lunacy of the party under Keir Starmer for you)).

If that party had been elected, free broadband would have been brought to the UK, school pupils would have been able not only to do their homework but to carry out distance learning, preparing them for their exams which would not have had to be cancelled – and it would have helped adults to work from home as well, which would have been a great help to a great many people during lockdown, as well.

That’s the problem with silly Tory ideological incompetence.

Their failure to accept the wisdom of free broadband, and their failure to equip school pupils for home learning, means Williamson has been forced to cancel exams because pupils are not well-enough educated.

As a result, the UK’s workforce will be less competitive in the world marketplace in the future, when compared with other countries that were better-prepared and more willing to help everybody in their populations, rather than just the very rich.

So when we look at the malady afflicting the UK’s education system under the Conservatives, during the Covid-19 crisis, we can see one thing clearly:

Williamson is a symptom of the illness. Conservative government is the cause.

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