Government must provide long-term, universal funding for free school holiday activities & food

Government must provide long-term, universal funding for free school holiday activities & food

30th October 2019

The North East Child Poverty Commission (NECPC) is calling on the Government to move towards providing long-term, sustainable funding for free school holiday activities and food, to stop children living in poverty in the region from missing out.

This year, the Department for Education allocated a total of £9.1million to support the provision of free summer holiday activities and food in eleven different areas across England, two of which were in the North East – Newcastle and Gateshead.

However, a recent answer to a written parliamentary question confirmed that a total of thirteen ‘bids’ for this funding were received from organisations based within the North East, with the value of the eleven unsuccesful applications from the region topping £5.6million.

In evidence submitted to a joint inquiry into ‘school holiday poverty’ by Parliament’s Work and Pensions and Education Select Committees, the North East Child Poverty Commission has highlighted the level of demand for such funding from the region this year, and raised serious concerns that local authorities and organisations are currently having to compete against each other to receive it.

The Commission’s evidence to the Select Committees’ inquiry stated:

‘Whilst we welcome the funding that was provided for activities in Newcastle and Gateshead this summer, the North East Child Poverty Commission is very concerned that local authorities in our region, all of whom have significant areas of deprivation and high levels of child poverty after housing costs (up to 39% in Middlesbrough and Newcastle upon Tyne, for example) are effectively ‘competing’ against each other in a bidding process for Government funding which is in itself a drain on resources.

‘The number (11) and value (£5.625m) of unsuccessful bids made from the North East for the 2019 DfE funding clearly illustrates the demand and need for free holiday activities and food across the region, and local authorities’ requirement for financial support to provide these after almost a decade of very significant budget cuts.

‘Children and young people growing up poor in different parts of the North East should not miss out because their local authority was unsuccessful in making a funding bid.’

The NECPC’s submission concluded:

‘Ultimately, the North East Child Poverty Commission believes the Government should move towards providing long-term, sustainable funding for the universal provision of free holiday activities and food to all children living in communities where the incidence of child poverty is high.

‘We also believe that this funding should be devolved to local authorities and VCS organisations working at the local level who know about the needs and assets of their communities. This approach would remove the need for local authorities and other organisations to bid against each other; it should ensure that all children and young people living in poverty would benefit; it would be of significant assistance to parents in work who struggle to find/afford holiday childcare; and it would mean that families and local organisations would have certainty from one year to the next about what support will be available locally during what can be an extremely challenging time.’

Jane Streather, Chair of the North East Child Poverty Commission, said:

‘The evidence about the benefits of structured programmes of free holiday activities and food for children, young people and their families is clear – not least from the pioneering work being done in our region on this issue by Northumbria University’s Healthy Living Lab.

‘So it cannot be right that children growing up poor in the North East are missing out on this provision, because they happen to live in an area that was unsuccessful in making a competitive funding bid.

'We don’t need any more pilot programmes, or funding competitions, and whoever is in Government after the General Election must quickly move towards providing long-term sustainable funding for such activities – devolved to local areas – so that all children and young people living  in communities with high levels of child poverty can access this vital provision, each and every year.’

The North East Child Poverty Commission is a network of public, private and voluntary sector organisations dedicated to building public support for actions that improve the lives of children and young people living in poverty in the region, which is hosted – but independent of – Newcastle University.

A full copy of the written evidence submitted by the Commission to the Select Committees’ joint inquiry can be read here.

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