School holiday food voucher boost for poorest families in Brighton and Hove

Children qualifying for free school meals will get a £25 a week food voucher over the next two school holidays in Brighton and Hove.

Picture licensed by Creative Commons

Most councils are offering a £15 voucher, in line with the campaign launched by Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford.

The government has been awarded a “winter covid grant” totalling £865,000 to Brighton and Hove City Council to help families with children and others.

Most of the money will be spent helping poorer families to put food on the table with the rest aimed at tackling fuel poverty.

Locally, food vouchers will be allocated to those families with children who qualify for free school meals.

It will also help families with two-year-olds who qualify for free nursery places and with three to four-year-olds who attract an “early years pupil premium” for nurseries.

The increased voucher allocation locally came after Labour and Conservative councillors pushed for a more generous sum at a “virtual” meeting of the council’s Policy and Resource Committee today (Thursday 3 December).

One of those behind the more generous vouchers locally, Conservative councillor Joe Miller, said: “The overriding priority is getting this government money into the pockets of some of the poorest in our city when household budgets are tightest at this time of year.

“Our Labour and Conservative joint amendment to put an extra £10 a week per child into the poorest families’ pockets is the best way to achieve this.”

A total of £633,000 will fund supermarket vouchers for 1,249 children in Brighton and Hove over the Christmas holidays and the February half-term break.

Leftover cash will go towards helping any families who fall through the net and is likely to involve the council working with groups such as Amaze, Allsorts and Voices in Exile.

Labour councillor John Allcock said that £15 was not enough to feed hungry teenagers. He said: “It would be very difficult to nutritiously feed a family with two hungry 11 and 14-year-olds on £30 a week.

“The proposed voucher allocation doesn’t allow enough for this. Of course, families need other resources to survive as well as food and people are rightly concerned about fuel poverty.

“So, increasing food vouchers to £25 will also allow greater flexibility in the household budget for other essentials at this time of year, such as heating and warm clothes.”

Councillor John Allcock

He said that a national diet and nutrition survey showed that children in the poorest households ate fewer fruit and vegetables.

Just three in a thousand children in deprived households ate the recommended minimum amount of fresh fruit and vegetables, he said, compared with 8.4 per cent of all children.

Another Labour councillor, Gill Williams, said a £25 voucher equated to £3.50 a day, adding: “It goes some way to restoring dignity and autonomy to these families who are really suffering and finding it tough, having to beg and having to accept charity the last time their children were off school at half term – and we don’t want that to happen again.

“Everyone deserves a bit of dignity and I do believe this will help towards that.”

With the voucher boost, Green councillor Hannah Clare was concerned about the loss of discretionary money for voluntary organisations such as Voices in Exile and Amaze.

She said that other councils were offering £15, in line with Marcus Rashford’s campaign.

Councillor Hannah Clare

Councillor Clare said: “Our city is so lucky to have so many organisations that have worked for decades on food poverty from Chomp to the Real Junk Food Project to the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership.

“We have a plethora of experts who are working to make sure people are happy and healthy.

“We have the money available to support the work these organisations are doing and offer them that support. We had the money available.”

She said that providing support for organisations such as Voices in Exile helped refugees and migrants to receive culturally appropriate food which was less likely to be available at local food banks.

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