Appointment of an Expert Panel to Examine Links between Persistent Educational Underachievement and Socio-economic Background

Part of Ministerial Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 11:30 am on 28th July 2020.

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Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP 11:30 am, 28th July 2020

A wider piece will need to be done on that. From memory, I do not think that there is a direct reference to food in the terms of reference, but the wider context around socio-economic status and poverty is well made. The panel is completely free to make its own recommendations. As the Member will know, there has been support from the Executive for the continuation of payments over the summer. The Education Authority's Youth Service Eat Well, Live Well programme is critical and has directly supported some of the most vulnerable children.

Obviously, free school meals will continue. A wider issue has to be looked at on a cross-departmental basis. We provided a quick, one-off fix, if you like, for summer 2020. The lead Department, which is the Department for Communities, has the principal responsibility for vulnerable families. One of the areas that will need to be looked at on a cross-departmental basis is what level of support we can give, particularly to families, as we move ahead to summer 2021 and beyond. We produced short-term fixes for COVID. We need to look now at longer-term fixes. Although my Department does not have principal responsibility for that, we will be very happy to cooperate and work with the relevant Department on that.