By Local Democracy Reporter Cairan Duggan
Kent’s poorest children must receive adequate food provision throughout the school summer months, a county councillor says.
Thousands of youngsters from low-income UK families have become reliant on free school meals for their daily nutrition amid the Covid lockdown, but the Government-led scheme has received major criticism.
At least 24 Kent schools have been unable to obtain free school meal vouchers online during the pandemic, according to Kent County Council (KCC).
KCC’s Liberal Democrat education spokesman, Cllr Trudy Dean, said: “Some schools are having to spend money on food rather than education and that should not happen.
“This is something that KCC needs to get a grip on as the local education authority.”
KCC’s cabinet member for education, Cllr Richard Long (Con), says County Hall has been working with three catering suppliers to ensure daily meals are provided to vulnerable youngsters and children of key workers who have been attending school during the public health emergency.
Speaking during a KCC full council meeting yesterday, he said: “KCC has paid 100% of the cost of free school meals based on the numbers of meals served over the preceding three months.
“For those children who have not attended, schools have made a packed lunch available for collection or arrangered for the use of food parcels or ‘hampers’, or vouchers either through Edenred or another provider. Many parents have preferred to receive a voucher.”
The national free school meal scheme is offered to the UK’s poorest families. They are issued with either an electronic voucher or gift card worth £15 each week per pupil, to spend at shops including Sainsbury’s, Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose and M&S.
The Department for Education’s official contractor, Edenred, runs an online portal which schools access to obtain meal vouchers. An ‘eCode’ is then sent directly to the parents, who can choose food from a range of supermarkets.
Around 400 Kent schools have been able to access vouchers from Edenred at least once, but many have struggled to log onto the site, some have received invalid codes while others face delays in receiving the meal vouchers.
KCC’s education cabinet member added: “There have been well publicised difficulties with the roll out of this scheme.”
On Wednesday, Boris Johnson’s Government said the school meal scheme would be extended through the summer holidays and 1.3million children in England will be eligible. This was a U turn prompted because of a high-profile campaign by Premier League striker Marcus Rashford.
A £120m Covid summer food fund will now offer six-week food vouchers to children eligible for free school meals in England during the holidays.
KCC’s main opposition leader, Cllr Rob Bird (Lib Dem), said: “I suspect if some members of the Government had showed the same level of compassion, commitment and common sense as footballers like Rashford then we would be in a much better place.”
Margate county council representative Barry Lewis said the free meals schyeme is vital in Thanet with some schools providing free meals for up to 40% of pupils.
Cllr Lewis, who is a co-founder of the Summer Kitchen free meals project with Sharon Goodyer, said: “I am delighted that there has been recognition by the government that they need to help children, including those in Thanet, to be fed properly during the summer holidays..”
The Summer Kitchen is unable to run this year due to the social distancing requirements needed to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Perhaps the County Councillor would donate the undeserves 4.5% paty increase she has just been awarded to the poor. No? Thought not!
Kevin , i donate 15 percent of my allowances to local good causes and charities. Over the last 3years that equals to £5,000 Approximately, to set up the summer kitchen project which i co founded with sharon goodyer received a sizable amount of that sum. I do not like advertising those figures but if someone like you makes incorrect statements about me then i think it is only fair to tell you the facts
I’ve supported the Isle of Thanet Kitchen throughout and have donated a large amount of my members grant to ensure people don’t go hungry during this crisis. I recently wrote to our local MP Craig Mackinlay to ask him not to withdraw the food voucher from our poorer children. The response? No response whatever. A disgrace, when you consider the rate of child poverty across Thanet is 35%. We shouldn’t have raise money to feed our children. But we will do that, for as long as it’s needed.
The next time i see a single mother with a mobile phonein one hànd and à fag in the other standind outsidè a pub, i will stop giving, wont be long.
Why should hard working prople pay for thr low lifes who have turned Margate inro a slum, ghetto filthy area that it is
Barry and I share a vision of a more equal society where all children are fed well. Barry and Karen supported me right from the start. Now I hope to receive support from more county councillors.
Summer Kitchen is fun and has received national recognition. It is a real shame we cannot eat together again this summer. We are going to try to do other things which I hope you will like a lot. I just have to confirm a few arrangements.
I think we might be taking a wrong turn in how we feed children. Do we really want them to eat most of their meals in school? It seems to me that the most important thing is to make good food available at a price everyone can afford.
I spend a lot of time applying for grant funding in competition with other schemes. We are all trying to do the best for our local families. I think this is wrong too. I should not have to compete to get local children good affordable food. This is a basic right.
There are a number of ways we could ensure adequate nutrition for children.
We could increase Child Benefit.Or……
We could increase wages to a level that makes a decent lifestyle possible.
We could control and limit mortgage and rent costs, allowing more of low wages to be spent on family needs beyond just a roof.
We could create a national child care service to look after children enabling parents to go out to work to earn enough.
Or we could increase the level of Universal Credit so that parents who can’t afford the current costs of childcare can stay at home to look after the children and can afford to feed them well.
We could renationalise gas,electricity and water and provide a limited amount of each to every household for free, depending on the size of the household, with only the usage above that rate leading to charges.Then more of the family’s cash could be spent on immediate food needs, safe in the knowledge that ,at least, a minimum level of energy and water needs would be met.
Or we could adopt a cumbersome system of vouchers over the school holidays which may actually miss some of the children it should help.
I fear that we have a government that, at best, makes things up as they go along (eg the Marcus Rashford success in getting children fed over the holidays) or , worse, is wedded to an ideology that seeks ways to limit working-class incomes as much as possible so as to increase company profits or reduce company taxes.
Im quite sure that a lot of children gò hungry because the parent has no idea of how to bring up a child, they cant prioritise, they cant cook, they have no education and so cant teach thè child.
A lot are just laźy.Now i suppose thats not pc
Derek, it’s not about being PC. It’s about recognising the material impact of living on a very low income. It’s also about understanding the compounding impact of longer term poverty. Universal credit rates are just so low. Rents are very high. You can afford the ‘bogoffs’, you can’t afford to plan ahead, you can’t afford the fares to the bigger shops for the better savings. So you buy what you can locally. You manage. If anything goes wrong, on a tight budget you struggle. Children can have complex needs. As a parent on a low income you do your best. The sad truth is our welfare safety net is full of holes. And the truth is not all parents can cope, does that mean their children should suffer? I don’t think so. This is the 5th richest country in the world. No one should go hungry or be homeless.
Ànd no one should have a child they cant afford maybe lessons on life should be learnt befote humping into bed.
I did mean jumping
People on low incomes are extremely GOOD with money and budgets. They have to be. A low income is a low income. There is no room for mistakes. Many of us would learn a lot from single-mothers or those on fixed benefits about how to manage with little. A bit more assistance and less punishment would help, of course. But , as the old saying goes,”the poor can never be punished enough”.
There is lots of room for scoungers, and lots are.