THE Government has refused to support extending free school meals during the holidays - and MP for Taunton Deane Rebecca Pow has now explained her vote.

Ms Pow commented on the situation after Somerset MPs voted against extending free school meals through the coming school holidays.

A motion to extend the service, spearheaded by Premiership footballer Marcus Rashford, was defeated in the Commons by 322 votes to 261 - a majority of 61, prompting a backlash against many MPs who voted against it.

Now, Ms Pow has said the Somerset community is coming together to help those families who are struggling, and she is pushing to “ensure holiday hunger is tackled in the most effective way”.

She said children in Somerset have benefitted from free meals since schools have reopened, and pupils who are required to self-isolate also receive help.

READ MORE: How Somerset MPs voted on the Free School Meals motion to extend the service

“Much consideration has been given to the most effective way of tackling holiday hunger and as a result targeted support for low income families is delivered through the welfare system rather than our schools,” she said.

“So far, £9 billion has gone into the welfare system since the onset of the pandemic, including boosting the Universal Credit standard allowance and Working Tax Credit by over £1,000 per year for the next 12 months, increasing the Local Housing Allowance, as well as awarding £16m to food charities which has been welcomed and targeted to those particularly in need.

“I also understand the £63 million local authority welfare assistance fund is focusing on providing essential food to the vulnerable and it will be active over this half-term holiday.”

Ms Pow also explained how Somerset County Council is providing an additional £125,000 for those requiring urgent food supplies - and there is widespread support from many local businesses and community groups uniting to provide food for those who need it.

READ MORE: Somerset County Council reveals £125,000 to help feed county children
READ MORE: Somerset cafes and groups offering free food for children

“Somerset County Council has received £32m since the start of the pandemic, with £3m received just last week,” she said.

“I am in constant touch with the council (and other relevant local organisations) to get an accurate picture of the situation on the ground so that I can ensure relevant funding is coming to the area and I feed back to Ministers constantly in this respect.”

The Taunton Deane MP also said the Government will “ensure children and their families have the support they need” over the coming months.

“I am pushing for more cross-party support and collaboration in Parliament to ensure holiday hunger is tackled in the most effective way because it’s the children that matter and the needs are complex and must be addressed in a range of ways,” she added.