Government pilots new holiday hunger scheme

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The Department for Education is funding a £2m pilot scheme this summer to give children from disadvantaged families out-of-school activities and healthy meals for free.

The government aims to reach 30,000 children by funding projects through 7 organisations in Birmingham, London and the North East.

Free cooking classes, football and play sessions are some of the activities that children will be able to take part in.

The summer holiday scheme also aims to help disadvantaged families who might rely on free school meals during term time, by providing meals for free.

Nadhim Zahawi, Children and Families Minister, said, “For most pupils, the end of the school summer term signals the start of holidays, days out and a chance to make memories with friends and family. Other families, who might rely on the support provided by schools, are not so lucky.

“These projects will provide a range of support for families during the summer break. They will also give children access to experiences that won’t just create great memories but will help broaden their horizons and build the confidence they need to succeed in whatever path they choose to follow.”

The Department for Education says evidence indicates that out-of-school activities can have a beneficial impact on children’s health, education and well-being.

With no strict eligibility criteria for families, the scheme has been purposely designed to aid families who find it hard to cope during the school holidays.

The government plans to run another targeted pilot scheme in 2019 during Easter and the summer holidays. It aims to support children’s education by:

  • seeing how many people take advantage of the project
  • testing the usefulness of interventions
  • working out if there are certain areas that the project would benefit most
  • finding out the costs involved

Lindsay Graham, who has campaigned on this issue and is an independent policy advisor, said, “The school holidays can be a challenging and costly time for families, particularly for those on a limited income or whose children are reliant on term-time free school meals.

“The need for community-led enrichment opportunities for children, young people and their families is paramount for helping the most disadvantaged in our society. Early research in the UK is telling us that these types of projects can make a difference.”

A number of organisations have successfully bid for the funding. These include: Children North East, Family Action, Feeding Britain, Birmingham Holiday Kitchen, Onside Youth Zones, Street Games and Transforming Lives for Good.

Feeding Britain’s national director Rosie Oglesby said, “We know that holiday clubs make a huge difference to children and their families, not only by providing healthy and nutritious food, but also making sure that all children have access to fun activities. The summer holidays should be something to look forward to, but sadly for some families that isn’t always the case. These holiday clubs will help to ensure that all children enjoy their summer holidays.”

Labour MP Frank Field brought a private members’ bill to Parliament in January calling for local authorities to have legislative responsibility in providing meals to disadvantaged children during the school holidays.

The bill did not pass a second reading, however, Mr Zahawi reacted by saying the government would explore how to help disadvantaged children to benefit from healthy meals and activities during the school holidays through research and pilot schemes.

Mr Field, who is also chair of the food poverty charity Feeding Britain, said, “This programme represents the single biggest national effort in decades specifically to improve poorer children’s access to meals and activities during the holidays. Feeding Britain’s role to date, in gaining this programme, has been crucial. Now begins an even more significant task of finding out, and then developing into a universal service, the most effective ways of ensuring every child can eat well and have fun during the holidays.”

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