Rashford seeks more change after food voucher win

Footballer Marcus Rashford says he wants to do more to help those in need after winning a battle to have a free school meal voucher scheme extended.

His campaign prompted a government U-turn that will see parents claim vouchers for about 1.3 million children in England during the summer holidays.

But he told BBC Breakfast there are "more steps that need to be taken".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the England star's "contribution to the debate around poverty".

The Manchester United forward said he was "grateful that the prime minister did change his decision" and that, in a phone call, Mr Johnson had thanked him "for using what I've built in a positive manner".

Mr Rashford said the extension of the scheme - launched when schools were closed as part of the coronavirus lockdown - has "bought an extra six weeks" to "figure out what's next".

"I don't want this to be the end of it because there are more steps that need to be taken and we just need to analyse the response," he said in an exclusive interview.

"People are struggling all year around so we still need to learn more about the situation people are in and how we can help them best."

The government says £63m is available to support the most vulnerable families through a new local authority welfare assistance scheme, and its Holiday Activities and Food programme offers activities and free meals in the summer holidays.

On Tuesday, Downing Street announced all children eligible for free school meals in term time in England would benefit from a "Covid summer food fund". 

The announcement came despite ministers having defended the decision not to extend the scheme for days beforehand.

Charities say research among 3,105 parents suggests half of families receiving universal credit or child tax credit in June had fallen behind with rent or other bills.

Seven in 10 of those surveyed for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and Save the Children said they had cut back on food and other essentials.

The pressure on families was highlighted by Mr Rashford in an emotional open letter to MPs posted on Monday. The 22-year-old drew on his own experience of relying on free school meals and food banks growing up in Manchester.

In the BBC Breakfast interview, he revealed that his mother called him "about 10 times" when his campaign was in the news and he said it was "nice to see her smiling" about the result.

"When she was going through [the hardship], if someone had spoken about it then maybe the situation would've been different," he said.


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