Children 'starving during the school holidays', warns MP

Ruth Smeen is calling a parliamentary debate on the issue

Jon Stone
Friday 16 October 2015 11:03
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Many children rely on school meals to eat
Many children rely on school meals to eat

Children in Britain are “starving” during the school holidays because their parents cannot afford to provide them with food, an MP has said.

Ruth Smeen, a Labour MP in Stoke-on-Trent, has scheduled a parliamentary debate on the effect that school holidays have on child starvation.

She produced figures that showed thousands of children in her local area would be affected by the Government’s planned cuts to tax credits.

“For millions of families living on the breadline, the holidays are nothing to look forward to,” she wrote in an article for the PoliticsHome website.

“This situation is broadly understood during term time, and has been for years. Free school meals, breakfast and after school clubs are all recognition of the difficulties which parents on low incomes face.

“Yet the Government has to date displayed a chronic blind spot when considering what happens to these families when school is out.”

The MP cited figures from a report released in the summer, produced by Kelloggs’s that found one third of parents have skipped a meal so their children could eat during the school holidays.

She also noted that around three quarters of households on incomes lower than £15,000 were not always able to buy food.

The Coalition government introduced free universal infant school meals and the Conservatives have pledged to keep there. There are reports that the policy may be under review, however.

The Trussell Trust, a charity that runs food banks, warned in March that it registered an increase in referrals during school holidays.

“During the school holidays we do see an increase in those referred to our foodbanks from the various organisations with partner with, because parents obviously struggle to provide that extra meal with the children and pay the bills,” Adrian Curtis, the foodbank director of the charity told the Independent at the time.

“I think for some families that’s enough to trip them into a crisis, where they’re referred to our foodbanks.”

Trussell Trust food banks saw a 38% rise in usage over summer 2014 compared to the same period the year before, with 30% of those referred being children.

Figures produced by the Resolution Foundation found that the Government’s planned tax credit cuts would immediately put 200,000 children into poverty when they came in in 2016.

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