Free school meals continue to be given to all children entitled to them during term time. Central Bedfordshire Council are providing supermarket vouchers to families who need them this half term week out of the £217,000 welfare assistance grant given to them by the Government.
To help an even wider group of families including those with preschool children who are not entitled to free school meals, the Government has increased Universal Credit payments by £20 a week and has spent an extra £9.3 billion on welfare support during the pandemic so far. This is part of over £200 billion of additional spending to deal with the pandemic, to provide employment support, and help businesses and families who are struggling.
I am a great supporter of the existing holiday activities, food programmes, and also of breakfast clubs. The Government funds these at the moment in parts of the country and I think that there would be merit in expanding them across the whole country everywhere they are needed. I know that these holiday programmes can help to build close relationships with the families concerned and can help child development in a number of ways. It is a more personal and relational approach. During the pandemic, however, we may only be able to roll this out in a small way to start with.
I also think it is important that we roll out Universal Support alongside Universal Credit. Universal Support helps tackle some of the reasons that people may be in poverty, for example: lack of digital skills, addiction, debt, and adult literacy. A truly compassionate approach doesn’t just leave people in the situation they are in, it helps equip them to move on whilst fully supporting them in their current situation.
However, no child needs to go hungry this week or in the future and I would like any family that is struggling to buy food or other essentials to contact me directly on this email and I will do a full review of their finances, benefits, and situation to see what further help can be given to them. Please do ask any family you know in this situation to contact me directly.