Hungry children could miss out on more than 50 million free school meals this summer holiday – as the Daily Express launches an emergency campaign to tackle child poverty.
Charities, experts and victims say the cost-of-living crisis has worsened what was already a problem on an epidemic scale among some of the UK’s poorest and most desperate families. England footballer Marcus Rashford galvanised Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2020 to step up and address food poverty in the UK, especially provision in school holidays.
But government analysis of its £220million 2021 Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme shows that of the 1.7 million children eligible for a free healthy, hot dinner only 498,000, or 29 percent, took advantage.
And then they did so on average for only 9.6 days.
Figures from charity End Child Poverty show 3.6 million children live in poverty in the UK – eight children in every class of 30.
Our Stop Child Hunger Now crusade demands more action as low wages, high energy costs and soaring inflation are worsening the crisis.
Many local authorities are funding HAF programmes but they have attracted criticism from parents, who cannot afford to pay to get to the sites.
Lunch is also not a guarantee – the Government guidance states at least one meal a day must be provided, but this could be breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Labour is urging the Government to enable cash payments for free holiday meals so those most in need can get precisely what they require.
It claims if the same percentages as last year access this summer’s scheme, the benefit will reach only 550,260 children. That means some 51 million dinners not reaching our most impoverished youngsters.
Shadow schools minister Stephen Morgan MP said: “Labour would ensure families eligible for free school meals are supported, empowering parents to choose the food and supplies needed to help them battle rising prices.” Statistics from national poverty charity, Turn2us, revealed some 49 percent of its users with kids reported having no money to live on after essentials.
Analysis from Resolution Foundation projects a further 500,000 children will fall into poverty by April 2023.
The Department for Education said: “The Holiday Activities and Food plan offers activities and healthy meals to disadvantaged children in holidays.
“We have provided wider welfare support for families in need through the Household Support Fund which helps vulnerable families.”
WHAT HELP IS AVAILABLE
- HOUSING BENEFIT – It can help you pay your rent if you’re unemployed, on a low income or claiming benefits. But it’s in the process of being replaced by Universal Credit (UC). You can only make a new claim if you have reached State Pension age or if you’re in supported, sheltered or temporary housing, otherwise apply for UC.
- WORKING AND CHILD TAX CREDITS – You can only make a claim for Working Tax Credit if you already get Child Tax Credit. If you cannot apply for Working Tax Credit, you can apply for UC instead.
- JOBSEEKER’S ALLOWANCE – This is a benefit for people who are not in full-time employment (work less than 16 hours per week), are capable of working and are looking for work. New Style JSA is extra money to help you cover your living costs while you’re looking for a job. Exactly how much you could get depends on your age. It’s based on your National Insurance contributions over the past two years. It can be claimed either on its own or with Universal Credit.
- INCOME SUPPORT – Extra money to help people on a low income and not signed on as unemployed. For new claims for help to cover living costs, apply for UC.
- FOOD BANKS – There are over 1,400 Trussell Trust food banks in the UK, in addition to at least 1,172 independent ones.
Source: Daily ExpressCategories: News