Free School Meals: Summer Holidays

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:12 pm on 16th June 2020.

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Photo of Mike Hill Mike Hill Labour, Hartlepool 6:12 pm, 16th June 2020

The north-east has the highest proportion of children and young people in receipt of free school meals. Indeed, Action for Children recently calculated that 71% of children in the north-east are living in families with no or little savings to see them through the current pandemic.

In Hartlepool, the numbers were significantly high prior to covid and have risen since the lockdown, while the effects of ending furlough and potential job losses have yet to be calculated. According to the End Child Poverty coalition and research by Loughborough University, Hartlepool is the third worst place for child poverty in the north-east, with more than a quarter of children living below the breadline. Child poverty has increased by 7% since 2015 in Hartlepool, and the situation is being exacerbated by covid and the economic effects of the lockdown on families who are struggling to cope.

That has raised real concerns about holiday hunger, so I am pleased that, despite the heavy financial burdens placed on my local authority, it was prepared to step up to the plate well before the Government changed their position about this motion and run its holiday hunger programme as it has done for years, at a cost of between £50,000 and £60,000 per week.

Councils such as Hartlepool have recognised the problem of child poverty for years. It is wrong and needs to be eradicated. The Government need to do more, and that work must start today.