Half term should be a time for rest and revival, but for many families it is a time of more worry about finances.
It’s half term again. For many families that will bring additional worries about their kids. Fortunately, the weather is fairly mild still, but will that last? In any event, we know that the cost of so much else is rising fast with news this week that food staples such as value pasta having gone by 60%.
Supermarkets and others are stepping up this half term with offers of heavily subsidised or kids eat free deals. Councils are offering vouchers or funding holiday clubs where children on free school meals can get fed, although some find it difficult to access holiday clubs due to transport costs. There are concerns too that the support that can be accessed is a bit of a postcode lottery. Some councils are using the Household Support Fund to supply food to children on free school meals over the week while others are looking to pay a one-off amount to families after half term to help them through the winter.
Of course, there are many families who don’t qualify for free school meals, but who are struggling to put food on the table for their children. Councils can be source of information on what else might be available for children in these circumstances. That support may include offers such as Tesco’s Kids Eat Free plan where parents can access a free meal for their child if they spend 60p on themselves. Harvester has an exclusive partnership with O2 during the October half term where kids can eat for free and the offer is not dependent on the purchase of an adult meal. It can be accessed through the O2 Priority app.
But while there is some support available in half term – even if it varies by area – it is the everyday during term time that many who don’t qualify for free school meals are finding it hardest to cover. That is what is fuelling calls for the expansion of eligibility criteria for free school meals. Children who are starving cannot learn. We know that teachers have been paying out of their own wages to feed children. There are anecdotes being shared on the news daily about children collapsing from hunger or taking leftovers home to have for their evening meal.
The new Prime Minister is expected to announce his spending plans next week. Ensuring children do not go hungry should be at the top of the agenda.