THE big political argument right now is free school meals (FSMs).

With just 72 hours before the start of half-term, an unenforceable opposition day debate was called to extend a temporary scheme that had already closed down and been replaced. But to argue the minutiae of parliamentary procedure is to miss the fundamental point.

I have always worried about a paradox with FSMs. If we as a society believe it is right to support families in need, through a wide variety of measures including FSMs, then why is FSMs only necessary during term time?

To me, it has always been logical that if a child needs free meals during term, they must need the support during holidays as well, and not just in a crisis. This fundamental point is key.

Governments of all colours have been looking at this for many years. The previous Labour government looked at this years ago and the idea of vouchers was examined but seen as something less than optimal, potentially stigmatising families who would have to present vouchers during holidays (which is why we increased Universal Credit by over £1,000 per year recently).

Of course, the vouchers system was used during the lockdown as an emergency measure, but this government has been looking at holiday meals for some time and commissioned the Dimbleby report that recommends this, but was much derided at the time of its release.

Over the years, I have met several local organisations that have set up holiday lunch clubs, providing meals for kids from families in need for some time – something I have always welcomed.

To a certain extent, the argument is about who should provide the local delivery. At one end, some say central government should do everything. At the other end, that civil society should be allowed to do it.

In truth, something in the middle is probably the best way. Local community groups do a very good job and the government should support them where they can. Local councils have been given money during the crisis to help with local need, including helping struggling families through this current crisis.

In Worcestershire, 13,000 children on free school meals will be supported jointly by the county council and district councils during holidays.

Arguments need both sides to be presented with clarity and thoughtfulness.

The government can be held responsible for incredibly poor communication, failing to inform people of what they are entitled to.

Irrespective of temporary fixes, we need to make sure that as we come out of the crisis, with many lessons learnt, we never miss the opportunity to implement progressive ideas.