The Government can find billions for business but are not able to provide the funds to feed hungry children during the summer holidays, said Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham.
The Department for Education have said that they will not extend the Free School Meals voucher scheme to the summer holidays – because they are providing funding for summer holiday schemes instead. Yet this has caused some disgruntlement as the funding only amounts to £9m across England for summer 2020 – significantly less than the 62 bids amounting to a total £40m from authorities across England.
Nine of these bids were from the North East, including a joint bid between Stockton and Hartlepool which was unsuccessful. Some local authorities such as Stockton Council have contingency funds to be able to provide some support for over the summer months, but many will not have this due to extensive Government cuts and the COVID-19 crisis creating even more of a funding gap for service and schemes.
Speaking about his concern for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, Alex said:
“It is wholly unfair that the bidding process for this funding is competitive, limiting successful bids to just one per region. It turns feeding hungry children into a postcode lottery and amounts to nothing more than playing politics with children’s wellbeing.
“We have seen in recent months that the UK Government has deep pockets, but when it comes to supporting the most vulnerable children to ensure that they all have the basic necessity of food, there is only a few scraps to go around.
“Not only did the Government refuse to provide meals for children during the half term break who are entitled to free school meals, but now they’re shirking the responsibility. It is another Government failure of stepping up to provide necessary services and support for those most in need.”