Barnet’s Labour councillors have responded to the Council’s free school meal offer of 39p per child per day for the three-week winter holiday period (half term and Christmas). Labour Group Leader, Cllr Barry Rawlings describes the funds as “woefully inadequate” to meet the needs of all children in need.
The Council’s funding offer will also not be given directly to the families but distributed to organisations running half-term activities to provide the meals, and to food banks – an inefficient and ineffective way of reaching all the children in need.
Councillors have already been contacted by parents who are not aware of half-term activities being run in their area, and where foodbanks have already run out of stock because of high demand.
A copy of Cllr Rawlings’ email to the Leader of the Council, Cllr Dan Thomas, follows:
Thank you very much for your reply.
I have to say that what the Council is offering here is simply not adequate to address the issue of holiday hunger.
There were 8,600 children on free school meals in January, and since then universal credit claimants have trebled so it now likely to be over 10,000.
But even at the January figures the £50,000 for the three weeks of winter holiday amounts to only 39p per child per day. Can you honestly say that you believe this will cover the cost of a meal for each child?
Not only is it not enough to address holiday hunger, it is also being offered in the least effective way – by asking organisations to bid for the money and provide the meals only to those children attending their centres, or via foodbanks.
We have already heard directly from parents that they do not want to be forced to go to foodbanks, and many are not aware of half term activities in their locations where meals may be provided.
The best way of getting the money to the children that need it is to give it – via vouchers if necessary – directly to the parents of those children entitled, otherwise it is unlikely to reach all the children who need it.
For those children already on free school meals this is easy to do because the Council will know who they are from the data held by schools.
I also agree that children not entitled to free school meals but who are experiencing hardship should not be forgotten. If you include these in the figures the Council’s offer is even more woefully inadequate.
I urge you to put in place sufficient funding for all children in need and extend the voucher scheme accordingly, so the money goes directly to those in need.
Half term has now started, so I look forward to hearing from you.
Cllr Barry Rawlings, Leader of the Barnet Labour Group of Councillors