Tagged: free school meals

Food poverty under spotlight in South Tyneside

Measures needed to tackle food poverty across Britain are being scrutinised in South Tyneside today.

Members of an all-party Parliamentary inquiry team, including South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, visited the town’s Churches Together Key Project, at St Mary’s Centre, last summer as part of a fact-finding exercise.

The team also held a discussion session at St Jude’s Church Hall at Rekendyke, South Shields, and visited the New Hope Food Bank, in the town’s Robinson Street.

They heard poignant personal accounts from young borough people forced to rely on food banks to survive, and they were told that more than 1,680 people in South Tyneside had visited food banks in 2013.

Everything the team learned in the borough has helped inform the recommendations they made to the Government on the extent of hunger across the country and the actions needed to address it.

Today Mrs Lewell-Buck and the Rt Rev Mark Bryant, the Bishop of Jarrow, are among those meeting at South Shields Town Hall to discuss the findings of the hard-hitting report.

The report identifies a clear link between the use of food banks and tougher restrictions on access to benefits.

> Like it wasn’t always obvious ?

It insists that, contrary to Government claims, food banks have spread because of greater need.

Among a raft of recommendations, the report calls for bigger food banks to distribute more free food and advise people on how to claim benefits and make ends meet.

And it recommends a rise in the minimum wage and the provision of free school meals during school holidays for poorer children.

The report says:

“We do not believe food banks should take the place of statutory welfare provision in this country, but our evidence suggests there is a strong desire for longer-term interaction between food banks and vulnerable households, and an eagerness for these relationships to become embedded within local communities so they can help people overcome the deep-seated causes of hunger.”

Mrs Lewell-Buck said:

“We’ve had a great response to our report, and we’ve managed to get the Government to accept that some aspects of the benefits system aren’t working and are causing a lot of hardship.

“I think the Government’s priority needs to be dealing with low-paid and insecure work, as well as the harsh way benefit sanctions are being imposed.

> Yes, we all think so too. So are you actually going to do something about it ? Will your party, if they win the general election ?

“The group’s work doesn’t stop with the report, however. This is an ongoing mission to put an end to food poverty, and that is why I am holding today’s meeting to discuss the next steps for the group and for Shields.”

The Government is now considering the findings of the inquiry team.

A Government spokesman said:

“This report is a serious contribution to an important debate, with many good ideas, and recognising that the reasons behind demands for emergency food assistance are complex and frequently overlapping.

“As a country, we have enough food to go around, and we agree that it is wrong that anyone should go hungry at the same time as surplus food is going to waste.

“There is a moral argument, as well as a sustainability one, to ensure we make the best use of resources.”

SOME OF THE REPORT’S 77 RECOMMENDATIONS:

–  The Government should provide support for 12 pilot projects across the UK to draw together voluntary and public expertise to eliminate hunger.

– All supermarkets should follow the example of Tesco and add 30 per cent to any food given by its shoppers to food banks.

> Bought by shoppers in Tesco.  It might look a bit more magnaminous if they just gave something without those kind of strings ?

– Local authorities should work with food organisations to free up land for food production, retail and storage.

> But don’t we have all those things already ? Surely the problem facing people using foodbanks is that we have plenty of food, but not the money to buy it ?

– Credit unions accounts’ should be made eligible for receipt of Universal Credit to encourage use among low-income households.

– Local authorities should begin collecting information on whether landlords in receipt of housing benefit are providing basic cooking facilities for their tenants.

– The Government should reform the benefits system so it can deliver payments within five working days.

> I’m sure it could right now… if it wanted to.

– The Department of Work and Pensions ought to simplify access to hardship payments.

 > And it could do that right now too… if, of course, it wanted to…
Source –  Shields Gazette,  06 Feb 2015

Newcastle schools put repair work on hold to help plug free school meals shortfall

Schools in Newcastle have been forced to put classroom improvement plans on the “back burner” as they look to cover the shortfall of the Government’s free school meals programme.

As of Tuesday, almost 6,000 children across the city in the first three years of school are entitled to a free lunch under a new £1bn scheme, spearheaded by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

The move means that children in reception, years 1 and 2 at 74 schools will be able to eat a free meal at lunchtime, saving families up to £400 per year and helping children to do better in the classroom and improve their diet.

Although Newcastle City Council is behind the scheme in principle, its leader Nick Forbes said Government funding to bring school kitchens up to scratch has fallen short.

Coun Forbes, who is also vice chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“Nobody argues that this is a sensible policy, but it does mean that many essential repairs in classrooms across the city will have to be put on the back burner.

“It’s not appropriate that children are being taught in buildings more than 150-years-old that are simply not fit for purpose.

“Schools have had to make the impossible choice; do they repair their leaky roof or put in place this national policy?

“The council and schools have been working really hard to make this happen within this ambitious timescale.

“The government didn’t make enough money available to implement this policy in the timescale they set for it.”

The LGA estimates that councils without enough money have had to find an average of £488,000 each to ensure all pupils will get the meals to which they will be entitled.

Those that were short of money said the balance would be found either by them, by schools or from general school funding intended for repairs and maintenance.

In Gateshead, 5,221 primary school children will receive a free school meal while 5,698 in North Tyneside are eligible.

Elsewhere, in Northumberland 6,631 children will pick up a school dinner from this week and 3,935 children will do the same in South Tyneside.

In County Durham – where the scheme was piloted between 2009 and 2011 – 13,439 children in the first three years of primary school are now entitled to a free school meal.

Results from the pilot showed that where children were given free school meals they were found to be up to two months ahead of their peers elsewhere in maths and English.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“All the evidence, including the pilots in Durham and Newham, shows that free school meals will not only help ease the pressure on household budgets and encourage positive eating, but will also help improve concentration and raise educational performance so that, regardless of their background, every child can have the best possible start in life.

“This is one of most progressive changes to our school system for a long time so there will always be critics but that won’t cloud my goal to create a level playing field for all of our children so their success will be determined by their talents and efforts alone and not by their parents’ bank balance.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  02 Sept 2014

Almost one in five North East kids do not get enough to eat during school holidays, survey reveals

North East teachers say they worry about the health of nearly two in five pupils when they return from school holidays because they are not given enough to eat.

Research by Kellogg’s also found that while holidays should be a fun time for families, term time breaks put an extra burden on the food budget of 27 per cent of parents in the region – with 17 per cent of parents struggling to feed their children three meals a day.

Of the 39 per cent of teachers who say there are pupils in their school that do not get enough to eat over the school holidays, more than a third of staff notice children returning to class with signs of weight loss and 43 per cent have seen a noticeable difference in their readiness to learn when they return for the new term.

And 30 per cent of North East teachers think offering holiday clubs at their school would ensure that children get fed properly, while 67 per cent believe they would give the added bonus of providing children with extra learning opportunities over the summer.

Adrian Curtis is director of the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network, which has two sites in Newcastle, one in Gateshead and one in Durham.

He said: “These are sad statistics when children spend 170 days out of school compared to 190 days in the classroom.

“School holidays are especially difficult for low income families whose children usually receive free school meals or support from breakfast clubs. Many are deeply concerned about being able to feed their children over the long break, and may resort to skipping meals to feed their children.”

He added: “Last year we saw foodbank usage in August increase by over a fifth compared to the same time in June, before the holidays began, and we expect this year’s figures to reflect a similar trend.

“On top of the existing work foodbanks do to help families struggling during the holidays, we have started to partner with companies, like Kellogg’s, to pilot running holiday breakfast clubs for families whose incomes are stretched to breaking point.”

The Kellogg’s Holiday Breakfast Club programme is held in schools, community centres and foodbanks across the UK to provide food and social activities. It is part of the company’s Help Give a Child a Breakfast initiative which aims to feed 80,000 families in need every day.

Katy Luke, manager of Blyth Valley Barnardos children’s centre, said: “We are aware that many families we work with are living in poverty and holidays are expensive for them, even when meeting basic costs not to mention treats which children hope to have on holiday.

“In our centre arrange a programme of activities that are free or low cost and we give families ideas of how to entertain youngster without having to break the bank. We also offer parents help during term time on how to cook healthy family meals on a tight budget.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 22 Aug 2014

Hartlepool – Desperate families struggle to feed children in holidays

Foodbank bosses fear there will be a huge rise in hand-outs during the school holidays as desperate families struggle to feed their children who would have received free school meals.

Families picked up almost a TONNE of goods from Hartlepool Foodbank in the first week of the school holidays.

The foodbank, in Church Street, usually hands out around half that amount each week to families on the breadline struggling to make ends meet.

But on the day many town schools broke up for their six-week break, volunteers at the Foodbank dished out more than 30 parcels to feed families.

Hartlepool Foodbank manager Al Wales said: “We were very busy this time last year, but as it was our first summer in operation it is difficult to say that is purely down to the school holidays as there are no previous figures to compare it to.

“But there is no doubt that the school holidays are a key factor in the increase in parcels we give out.

“Children who normally have their lunch at school are now at home, and they need to be fed.

“So the families are having to get more food than they normally would.

“We were extremely busy last Friday, and the collection on the Tuesday was also quite large.

“On a busy week, we can hand out about half a tonne of food across the week. “Last Friday, we did that in one day.”

The Foodbank opens twice a week, for two hour periods on Tuesdays and Fridays.

People deemed to be in need of handouts are referred to the Foodbank by health professionals, social workers or other agency staff.

Al added: “We carried out a collection in Morrisons recently because we knew we would be busy during the summer.

“The schools help us with regular donations, but when they are on holiday they obviously drop off.

“We’re well stocked, and we’re coping, but obviously more donations are always welcomed.”

Source –  Hartlepool Mail,  26 July 2014

 

New Universal Credit ‘Fiasco’ Could Cost £750 Million

Labour Party Press Release:

The Government has admitted Universal Credit could cost taxpayers an additional £750 million after failing to decide how free school meals will work alongside the crisis-hit programme.

 In response to a Parliamentary Question, Schools Minister David Laws said the additional cost of extending free school meals to all families in receipt of Universal Credit could reach £750 million a year.
> Could… if it ever really gets off the starting blocks.

Under the current system, eligibility for free school meals is decided by certain benefits received by families such as income support.

However because Universal Credit is set to replace existing benefits, including in-work benefits, and will be claimed by families not currently in receipt of free school meals, the Government must decide on new eligibility criteria.

Since 2011, Labour has consistently asked questions on the issue but the Tory-led Government has still not decided what the Free School Meals criteria will be despite repeated assurances.

Until it reaches a decision it has said that all children in households receiving Universal Credit will automatically be eligible for free school meals – which could result in an extra £750 million of government spending.

Chris Bryant MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform, said:

Ministers have ignored warnings about Universal Credit and free school meals for years.

“Now they have admitted the cost of their incompetence could reach £750 million.

“David Cameron must urgently get a grip of this latest Universal Credit fiasco with threatens to cost taxpayers millions of pounds.”

 

Source: press.labour.org.uk

Source –  Welfare News Service,  25 June 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/new-universal-credit-fiasco-cost-750-million-say-labour/

More Workfare, More Sanctions, Iain Duncan Smith’s Brutal and Barmy Plan To End Child Poverty

the void

Iain-Duncan-Smith415 The Government’s latest child poverty strategy is a blueprint for pushing already struggling single parents into financial destitution with benefit sanctions and workfare.

This year’s five reasons for child poverty are predictably unemployment, along with low levels of qualifications, single parent families, having more than three children and ill health.  Such is Iain Duncan Smith’s desperation to blame children being poor on anything other than not having enough money that this is his fourth re-definition of poverty in just three years.  Previous reasons for poverty, which included step-parents, mothers with mental health problems, being disabled, and of course drugs, no longer make the top five.

The main thrust of the latest strategy is to tackle what is repeatedly referred to as ‘worklessness’ – as if raising children requires no effort at all.  The measures to combat this great social ill – which can mean parents spending time raising their…

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