Connect > Blog > The campaign for permanent holiday provision
The campaign for permanent holiday provision
16th October 2020
One in four parents of primary-aged children have skipped a meal or seen someone in their house skip a meal to make ends meet. (EndHungerUK, 2018).
Three million children are at risk of hunger in the school holidays. (Feeding Britain 2017).
A month into lockdown, parents of two million children said they had experienced one or more forms of food insecurity. (Food Foundation, 2020).
Unless urgent action is taken, UK destitution rates will double by Christmas. (Trussell Trust, 2020).
These statistics are enough to challenge anyone’s thinking. In a society like the UK, how can this be the case?
These are not just statistics. Behind every number is a child.
A child who is being robbed of a carefree childhood and instead feeling the burden of anxiety by not knowing where their next meal will come from. A parent or guardian working hour after hour to make ends meet, going hungry so their children can eat what little they have. A family going cold on a winter night, as they had to spend their leftover money on food and so did not have enough left to top up the meter.
Through the work of Transforming Lives for Good (TLG), our volunteers and staff regularly meet families making these impossible decisions and facing unbearable situations. What helps some of these families is knowing their child will receive at least one hot and healthy meal a day via the Free School Meals system. For many children in poverty, this may be the only meal they eat that day.
This is the reason why TLG has unrelentingly joined the calls for holiday provision to be made a permanent and comprehensive policy, ensuring no child goes hungry during the holidays.
We were therefore disappointed to hear the Prime Minister’s spokesperson yesterday rule out holiday provision for the upcoming October and Christmas holidays, despite increasing pressure from Marcus Rashford, cross-party MPs and other organisations.
At this stage, it is important to mention TLG fully welcomes and is grateful for the commitment of the devolved Welsh government to deliver holiday provision for children on Free School Meals up to and including the 2021 Easter holidays. We are also aware of the continued work of the Holiday Food and Activities Programme (HAF) which has been funded by the government, but this is not even close to reaching every child at risk of hunger. It is not enough. More must be done. Every country in the UK must commit to a full and permanent holiday provision that reaches every child in need of support.
It has always been needed, but it is needed now more than ever.
COVID-19 has further exacerbated already existing high levels of food insecurity across the UK. Last month The Trussell Trust projected that, unless urgent action is taken, UK destitution rates will double by Christmas leaving at least 670,000 more people facing destitution. There were also 2.4 million starts to Universal Credit between the 13 March 2020 and 14 May 2020, the initial stages of lockdown (Department of Work and Pensions), showing the number of families who have lost their regular employment income due to the impact of COVID. These numbers will have continued to rise since.
COVID-19 will only intensify the catastrophic statistics above, dropping even more families into extreme food insecurity and leaving them anxious about how they will provide for their children.
This is about more than just the immediate effects too. It has long been accepted that there is a clear link between a child going hungry and their education. While more than two-thirds of non-disadvantaged children achieved grade 4 or higher in maths and English, just 36% of those eligible for free school meals did so. (Department for Education 2020)
As children are already facing a school year of disruption and a desperate attempt to catch up on lost education, 64% of teachers surveyed think that hunger will harm efforts to catch children up on the learning they missed out on during school closures. This rose to 79% of teachers in schools with above-average levels of disadvantage. (Magic Breakfast 2020).
Tim Morfin, Chief Executive of Transforming Lives for Good commented:
“If action is not taken to mitigate increasing levels of child hunger, starting with full and permanent holiday provision and making the temporary £20 increase to Universal Credit permanent then an already increasing disadvantage gap will surge to levels that will take years, even decades, to undo.”
We regularly use words like ‘critical’, ‘urgent’ and ‘vital’ to describe policy asks such as this. But there is no adjective strong enough to fully describe just how important it is that the government commits now to full holiday provision for children on Free School Meals over the upcoming October and Christmas holidays and beyond.
No child should have to go hungry in the UK. Let us work together to make sure no child does.
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Before coming to TLG, Beth worked as a Fundraising Project Manager for poverty-relief charity Christians Against Poverty. Beth also has expansive experience in the political sector. Beth is a season ticket holder at Huddersfield Town and enjoys hiking through the Yorkshire countryside followed by a local ale in the pub.