Holiday Hunger Schemes

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:41 pm on 6th November 2018.

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Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 3:41 pm, 6th November 2018

I commend Carolyn Harris on the absolutely amazing work she is doing to ensure her constituents are fed, although it is incredibly sad and frustrating that we have to do that in our society.

Some fantastic work is being done in my constituency, and I would like to draw hon. Members’ attention to a couple of examples. Organisations in my constituency and right across Glasgow have grasped holiday hunger incredibly well. It is important that the help for families is not just a handout. We want to get the biggest take-up of holiday food provision, so it must be free from stigma. It must be community-focused and provided in an inclusive, welcoming environment.

Dalmarnock Primary School in my constituency took the lead with its “Food, Families, Future” scheme over the summer holidays. More than 80% of the children who attend Dalmarnock Primary are in Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation category 1—the lowest category—and 30% have English as an additional language. Many of their parents have no recourse to public funds due to Home Office decisions, so sadly they are also in need of support and food over the summer. The Home Office sometimes does not allow them to work—I am not quite sure where it imagines they will be fed.

The summer project is fantastically well thought out and has had input from partner organisations from all over Glasgow, including Possibilities for Each and Every Kid—PEEK—which is brilliant at doing play work with children and giving them a proper summer to remember. The project did not just provide food for kids, but used the school’s resources to tackle several key poverty-related indicators. It was more of a summer camp than a food bank. In addition to holiday hunger, it addressed social isolation for parents, who often cannot take their children out to different places, and find being stuck in the house on their own all summer isolating and lonely. Being on a tight budget over the summer holidays means that there is limited scope for play and entertainment. Parents face a long period in which they cannot take up work because they have got caring responsibilities. Working is difficult because they have to pay for childcare.

The Dalmarnock Primary School scheme was about more than just free meals. It gave families the chance to support one another, and for children to take part in sports and other activities in a safe, familiar space—they got to go to their own primary school over the summer. Such projects offer a crucial link for families and communities, and build strong support networks so families are more likely to access help that they need in the future and parents are less likely to feel isolated. They build up peer-group friendships, which they might not otherwise have been able to do.

Glasgow City Council has since allocated £2 million for Glasgow children’s summer food programme, hoping that similar projects can be replicated throughout the city. The fund makes awards available to organisations that can feed children over the holiday period, in ways that support their wellbeing and a healthier relationship with food. The Scottish Government have made Scotland the only UK country to have defined statutory targets for tackling child poverty, through the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017. They have allocated £1 million towards the tackling child poverty development plan, which sets out practical assistance for measures to improve food security during the school holidays.

It is important to acknowledge that child poverty cannot be solved by one strategy, one Department or one Government. It is a complex issue and we have to consider the wider context in which any policy is operating.