Socialist Worker

Tory cuts to blame for child hunger in summer

Almost a decade of austerity has left millions of children at risk of hunger, says Sarah Bates

Issue No. 2619

Children at a protest demanding an end to child poverty in 2008

Children at a protest demanding an end to child poverty in 2008 (Pic: NeedNOTGreed/Flickr)


Tory cuts are forcing children to suffer six weeks of hunger, boredom and poverty during the summer holidays.

Childcare is expensive and local authority services have been cut to the bone. For some parents that means school holidays are a time to dread.

An estimated three million children are at risk of going hungry over the summer break, say charities.

Without free school meals many parents struggle to pay the extra weekly food cost for each child.

Foodbank charity The Trussell Trust said their figures from 2017 show thousands of extra packages were distributed in July and August.

Foodbank usage is already up by 13 percent on the previous year. Now a record number of families are set to use the charity’s three-day emergency supplies.

Samantha Stapley, Director of Operations at The Trussell Trust, said, “Foodbanks cannot, and must not, be a long term solution.

“There are changes we can make as a nation to help during the holidays. But if we are to protect each other from hunger whatever the time of year, we have to go further than that.

“Our benefits system can, and must, act as an anchor to protect people from being pulled into poverty.”

But people who claim Universal Credit (UC) can be forced to wait up to six weeks to receive their first payment.

This has a devastating impact on families, with benefit delays being the most common reason for food bank referral.

Schemes

Some families are able to use localised lunchtime schemes run by charities or councils during the six-week break.

And the Department for Education has set up a pilot scheme for local holiday clubs—but it’s limited—only 30,000 will be able to use it.

More action is desperately needed. Almost a decade of austerity means children’s centres and summer play schemes have been slashed or axed entirely.

Paying for childcare during the long summer holiday is also a huge drain on many families’ finances.

And under UC rules parents can only receive help towards childcare costs in arrears.

That means they have to pay the bills and apply to be reimbursed later. But many on low incomes are simply unable to make the initial payment.

Under the programme of cuts, 508 children’s centres have closed since 2010.

More vital services face the axe as the Tories plan to cut a further £2.7 billion of local authority funding in the next year.

And despite a Department for Education vow that “we want every child to have the best start in life”, the Tories have halved funding for children’s centres.

Families living in poverty and children going without food are direct results of the Tories’ programme of cuts, privatisation and closures.


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