Westminster Hall speech on regional inequalities and child poverty
Image copyright, Parliamentary Recording Unit, 2022.
Sharon Hodgson MP - spoke in a parliamentary debate about regional inequalities and child poverty held in Westminster Hall, called by Labour colleague Liz Twist, MP for Blaydon.
The debate couldn’t be more relevant at the current time, when children in the North East have the second highest poverty rate in the UK, and 51% of Washington and Sunderland West households with children are in receipt of UC or Working Tax Credit. Many of these families were struggling before the pandemic, but a toxic combination of low incomes, a cost-of-living emergency and the Government’s £20-a-week cuts to universal credit has sent many families into crisis. Speaking in the debate, I focused on the provision of free school meals – a quarter of North East Children in poverty are not eligible for a free school meal. Hungry children cannot learn, and I wanted to make it clear that the Government’s talk of levelling up is meaningless when thousands of children in poverty are being left behind. Food insecurity must be addressed.
Sharon welcomes the launch of the APPG School Food's Holiday Hunger Task Group's 'Filling the Holiday Gap Update' Report. The update report can be read here.
In the lead-up to the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review on Wednesday 25th November, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food’s Holiday Hunger Task Group today published their ‘Filling the Holiday Gap Update’ report nearly a year after the Task Group’s creation.
The ‘Filling the Holiday Gap Update’ Report provides a snapshot into some of the best holiday provision projects and research currently seen across the UK. The update report calls on the Government to:
- fund for the development of resources and training for organisations to deliver and support new and existing holiday provision programmes;
- research into scale of child hunger in the UK and its effect on learning, and;
- develop policy to support holiday provision programmes that include meals and enrichment activities.
The issue of child holiday hunger has been a concern of the APPG for School Food for many years with the publication of the APPG’s position paper ‘Filling the Hunger Gap’ in 2013 and the creation of the Holiday Hunger Task Group in December 2014.
The Holiday Hunger Task Group brings together academics, organisations and individuals who are keen to address the issue of child holiday hunger.
Since the Task Group’s inception it has hosted their first national conference in June 2015 at Sheffield Hallam University to launch their ‘Filling the Holiday Gap’ ten point guide for organisations to use when providing food during holiday periods. You can read this ten point guide here.
Speaking before the launch of the report, Sharon - pictured above with Roberta Blackman-Woods MP (City of Durham) at a local holiday provision provided by Gateshead Council who feature in the update report, said:
“The social injustice of child holiday hunger is an issue which has historically failed to be addressed by government and we know that this lack of any concerted effort to address this issue is holding the next generation back from achieving their full potential.
“That is why since the creation of the Holiday Hunger Task Group last year, it has been wonderful to see the group achieve some ground-breaking and influential work in raising awareness of the issue of child holiday hunger and bringing together best practice and research from across the country into how best we address this pertinent issue.
“I welcome the testimonies from all those involved in this report and I hope that this update will provide the necessary vehicle for my fellow Members of Parliament and Government Ministers to support the Task Group’s desire to work towards seeing no child go hungry during the school holidays.”
Lindsay Graham, who chairs the APPG’s Holiday Hunger Task Group and is the author of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust’s ‘170 Days’ Report, said:
“I am staggered that we are in 2015 and the UK wide issue of children going without their daily free school meal, their right to play, socialise, be safe and achieve is being denied.
“I commend the work of those individuals and organisations supporting children and their families with food and activities in a safe community environment. Christmas is looming and for many we met this summer it will not be a time of celebration.
“I hope that the policy makers will actually read the testimonies in this report and help change the way we deliver services. This issue cannot be addressed by one sector alone and that is why we are looking to government to support our call for research, funding and policy that can help close this inequality gap.”
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, has hit out at the Government over their failure to address child hunger during the summer holidays after a damning report researched by YouGov for Kelloggs showed more than six out of ten parents with household incomes of less than £25,000 said they weren’t always able to afford to buy food outside of term time.