Childhood hunger

Children in the UK are still going hungry in 2019. We are focusing on two key policy issues to help make sure this becomes a thing of the past.

Holiday provision

In September 2017, Frank Field MP introduced a Bill to the House of Commons, with cross party backing, which sought to enact the APPG’s main recommendations on countering hunger amongst children during school holidays. The Bill would give local authorities both the duties and the resources they need to facilitate free meal and fun projects during school holidays.

At the Bill’s second reading in January 2018, the Bill did not progress, but the Minister for Children and Families confirmed that the Government will provide funding for research and pilots on holiday provision, due to begin in Summer 2018. These will generate data on the effectiveness of holiday provision, and the most appropriate models. Further national roll out will be based on the results of these pilots.

Feeding Britain and the APPG on Hunger have provided information to the Department for Education (DfE) to help inform the initial research and pilots. The DfE has announced £2 million for initial pilots in Summer 2018 and will make further funding available for 2019 and beyond.

Free school meals

Automatic registration

Free school meals make a huge difference to families, and we want to ensure that as many children as possible benefit from the support they are entitled to. By moving to automatic registration, where eligible children are identified and automatically signed up, rather than their parents having to apply individually, local authorities can dramatically increase take-up rates for free school meals. As well as providing a healthy meal each day at school for the child, this also ensures the school benefits from additional Pupil Premium funding to boost the life chances for children from deprived backgrounds.

Wirral Council adopted automatic registration for free school meals in 2016, a move which generated over £725,000 in Pupil Premium funding. We are working with other local authorities in our pilot areas to similarly set up automatic registration, and are also calling for changes to national policy to remove some of the barriers that currently make it difficult for local authorities to adopt this approach.

Feeding Britain and the APPG on Hunger has submitted a proposal to the DfE requiring that all application forms for school places ask for parents’ National Insurance number and seek consent for the data parents have submitted to be used to register their children for the relevant educational benefits including Free School Meals. 

Free school meals under Universal Credit

The Department for Education launched a public consultation on eligibility for Free School Meals under Universal Credit, to which Feeding Britain and several of our pilot areas responded. The Department’s response to the consultation was published in February 2018. The consultation contained a proposed earnings threshold to allow for working families’ entitlement to free school meals, once overall household income is factored in. The new earnings threshold will result in an additional 50,000 children gaining eligibility for FSMs, many of whom are from working families.

However there are concerns that the earnings threshold at its current level will results in a certain number of children from low income working families not receiving FSM, and the cliff edge could disincentive some low income workers from extending their hours as this would result in a loss of FSMs. We recommend that the threshold needs to continue to rise in line with inflation.

Breakfasts

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that schools should wherever possible refer chaotic families to their local Troubled Families project whose success can be measured in the number of families they have ‘turned round’ to being functioning in a normal way. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date Completed

The Government has implemented this recommendation. Since April 2015 schools have been able to refer such families to the Troubled Families project.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend where possible that all schools offer free breakfast facilities for their pupils (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Completed

In March 2018 the Government set aside £26 million from the Sugar Tax to support breakfast clubs in deprived areas, focussing on the Department for Education’s opportunity areas. The Department has appointed two charities, Magic Breakfast and Family Action, to help schools provide the breakfast clubs.

In several Feeding Britain pilot areas, schools and community groups are offering breakfast clubs, focussing in particular on areas of high deprivation, and we are working to expand this across other locations.

Healthy Start Vouchers

APPG Recommendation

We believe the Government and the voluntary sector should consider whether there is an opportunity to provide information about available food skills training alongside Healthy Start vouchers. (Feeding Britain Report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date Completed

The Department of Health and Social Care makes information available on food skills and healthy eating when parents receive Healthy Start vouchers. In response to a Parliamentary Question in 2017, submitted by the APPG on Hunger, the Department confirmed that health professionals provide appropriate advice on breastfeeding and healthy eating to the applicant. Alongside Healthy Start, there are various National Health Service and public health platforms that offer parents information on healthy eating, including NHS Choices, Change4Life and Start4Life.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend LAs make it a key responsibility of Health Visitors to register parents living on low incomes, with young children, for Healthy Start vouchers. This registration should take place automatically, with parents given the choice to opt out (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Uptake of Healthy Start vouchers (Not so hidden hunger, April 2016)

Progress to Date Pending

The Department of Health and Social Care have confirmed that: “​ health visitors work with parents who have new babies, offering support and informed advice in order to promote good health and prevent illness. Families from all walks of life may need support for specific issues that affect their children’s health and development, so the actual service provided to each particular family will vary according to a personalised 2 assessment of their own needs and evidence of what will work for them. Health visitors draw on their knowledge of the families they work with to promote the Healthy Start Scheme to those who may be eligible. The Healthy Start application form must be countersigned by a healthcare professional, and this provides an opportunity for health visitors to support people to complete the form.”

In April 2018 the Department for Health and Social Care confirmed, in response to a Parliamentary Question on sharing of good practice between local authorities on maximising uptake of Healthy Start voucher, that:

“The Government is working to ensure that eligible families are aware of the Healthy Start scheme and how this will benefit them. The scheme is promoted through the Healthy Start and Start4Life websites, reminding families to take up the vouchers. The Healthy Start Issuing Unit is also proactive in identifying and making contact with families who may be eligible for Healthy Start. At a local level, midwives, health visitors and local authorities play a key role in promoting awareness of the scheme”.

The Department also confirmed that, as of 23 April 2018, the take up rate for Healthy Start vouchers in England is 64%. On 20 August 2017, the level of uptake of Healthy Start vouchers was also given as 64%. The Department also provided figures for the 10 lowest and 10 highest local authorities for Healthy Start uptake rates.

Free School Meals

APPG Recommendation

We urge each Local Authority to use the Eligibility Checking System to register automatically children of eligible parents for free school meals and for Feeding Britain to report on progress. (Feeding Britain Report, Dec 2014)

We recommend that the Secretary of State for Education issues guidance and writes to all LAs bestowing upon them the duty to automatically register all eligible children for free school meals. (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

A small but growing number of Local Authorities have taken up this recommendation.

Challenges have emerged relating to data protection, and new GDPR rules from May 2018 will raise further questions. Feeding Britain is working with experts in the field to identify immediate steps that LAs can take, and also to identify solutions that will apply from May 2018. Several of our pilot areas have adopted automatic registration to date, or are in the process of putting this in place. Feeding Britain and the APPG on Hunger has submitted a proposal to the DfE requiring that all application forms for school places ask for parents’ NI number and seek consent for the data parents have submitted to be used to register their children for the relevant educational benefits including Free School Meals. We await a response.

Holiday Food Provision

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Government begins costing the extension of free school meal provision during school holidays. (Feeding Britain Report, Dec 2014).

We recommend that the Government gives serious consideration to the Health Select Committee’s recommendation to introduce a small levy of 20p per litre on drinks that are high in sugar content. It should further consider also top slicing 4p per litre of this levy to fund a national programme of school holiday provision (Route Map, Dec 2015).

A statutory requirement for local authorities to facilitate and co-ordinate the delivery of free meals and fun for children during the school holidays, with utmost flexibility granted over the actual delivery methods used. The voluntary sector should be in the driving seat wherever possible. We ask that the Government lends its backing to the Free School Meals (Provision in School Holidays) Bill which we will present to Parliament after the General Election. The Bill would enact this statutory requirement while giving local authorities the flexibility they need to implement programmes that are best suited to the needs of children in their area. (Hungry Holidays, April 2017).

Progress to Date Completed

In September 2017, Frank Field MP introduced a Bill to the House of Commons, with cross party backing, which sought to enact the APPG’s main recommendations on countering hunger amongst children during school holidays. The Bill would give local authorities both the duties and the resources they need to facilitate free meal and fun projects during school holidays.

At the Bill’s second reading in January 2018, the Bill did not progress, but the Minister for Children and Families confirmed that the Government will provide funding for research and pilots on holiday provision, due to begin in Summer 2018. These will generate data on the effectiveness of holiday provision, and the most appropriate models. Further national roll out will be based on the results of these pilots.

Feeding Britain and the APPG on Hunger have provided information to the DfE to help inform the initial research and pilots. The DFE has announced £2 million for initial pilots in Summer 2018 and will make further funding available for 2019 and beyond.

APPG Recommendation

An adequate funding base, combined with an invitation to businesses to add to this base, to enable local authorities to meet their statutory duties. We recommend that the Government allocates £41.5million - one tenth of the Healthy Pupils Capital Programme that will be funded by the revenues from the sugary drinks levy- towards the provision of free meals and fun for children during school holidays. (Hungry Holidays, April 2017)

Progress to Date In progress

This will be covered by the DfE research and education pilot starting in Summer 2018.

APPG Recommendation

National minimum standards laid down by the Department for Education, in respect of the safe and effective delivery of free meals and fun for children during school holidays. We recommend that the Government adopts basic criteria for each organisation involved in the delivery of school holiday meal and fun projects, based on those recently drawn up by the Mayor’s Fund for London. (Hungry Holidays, April 2017)

Progress to Date In progress

This will be covered by the DfE research and education pilot starting in Summer 2018.

APPG Recommendation

A national portal which enables those individuals and organisations delivering free meals and fun for children during school holidays to receive the training, information, advice and guidance they need to at least meet the national minimum standards. We recommend that the Government again draws upon the recent work of The Mayor’s Fund for London, in designing a national portal which helps local authorities accelerate the delivery of school holiday meal and fun projects. (Hungry Holidays, April 2017)

Progress to Date In progress

This will be covered by the DfE research and education pilot starting in Summer 2018.

APPG Recommendation

A robust research base to guide the ongoing development of projects. We recommend that an initial group of projects should incorporate robust evaluation frameworks covering, amongst other things, their impact on children’s height, weight, body mass index, dietary intake, and academic attainment. (Hungry Holidays, April 2017)

Progress to Date Completed

The Government has announced a series of holiday provision pilots, and research to inform possible national roll out.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that voluntary projects delivering school holiday provision offer parents a ‘benefit health check’ to ensure they are not going without vital additional monies to which they might be entitled (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

Feeding Britain published a report Ending Hunger in the Holidays in December 2017, which contained examples of holiday clubs which aim to provide wider wraparound support to parents, including advice on benefits issues. It does not appear, however, that this is being systematically done, and in the absence of reliable national funding, many holiday clubs do not have the resources to be able to offer this service. We hope that the DfE pilots will show how this kind of additional support can best be provided.