HOLMES Chapel's MP says more needs to be done to support children in poverty and struggling families.

Fiona Bruce was one of 322 MPs to vote against the extension of free school meals during the October half-term break following footballer Marcus Rashford's campaign.

The Conservative MP for Congleton's stance was challenged on Monday by Cllr Jo Dale, an Alsager town councillor who stood against Mrs Bruce as Labour's candidate in last December's General Election.

In the days following the vote in Parliament, businesses and community groups have stepped up to the mark, providing meals and packed lunches for vulnerable children this week.

Mrs Bruce told the Guardian that she believes ministers have 'listened carefully to concerns expressed this week' in the wake of the vote.

She says that now is the time for the roll-out of 'family hubs', facilities which she has championed in recent years that would help provide support for families at their time of need, including those living in poverty.

The hubs would follow on from the success of the Holiday Activity and Food programme, Mrs Bruce says, which has supported 50,000 disadvantaged children in 17 areas – with food, activities, educational support and financial counselling.

"It goes without saying that no child should go hungry," said Mrs Bruce.

"During this pandemic billions of pounds have been provided by Government to protect families and livelihoods, including millions to local councils to support families in need, in the most appropriate and targeted way, including, if need be, by supplying food – and that is right.

"In my view, as part of the Government’s response, as well as providing immediate financial help, particularly over Christmas, it needs to provide much more structured sustainable support for families in difficulty.

"Now, more than ever, the family hub is needed if we are to adequately address food poverty, not only during this pandemic but for the long term."

At the protest on Monday, Cllr Dale insisted Mrs Bruce should have voted in favour of extending free school meals this week.

She said: “Fiona Bruce’s decision to vote against the extension of free school meals shows utter contempt for vulnerable children in this constituency.

“Let’s remember that more than 20 per cent of children in Congleton constituency live in poverty.

“Times are tough right now – with huge job losses, wage cuts and instability for the future – these are not normal times and extending free school meal vouchers into school holidays is a direct way to help vulnerable children.

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“It should have been done in a heartbeat – Fiona has shown a complete lack of empathy and compassion by voting against this.”

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