East Durham youngsters to benefit from funding to tackle holiday hunger

Thousands of youngsters are set to benefit from a £150,000 funding pot aimed at combatting holiday hunger when children are not at school.

Durham County Council’s Poverty Action Steering Group has been allocated the money from the Government’s New Burdens Funding scheme for holiday activities with food from now until September 2020.

Building on work already underway across the county, £140,000 will be divided between the council’s 14 area action partnerships (AAPs). This will then be allocated to schemes that provide opportunities for youngsters and families to socialise, be active and learn new skills, while tucking into healthy meals and snacks.

The remaining £10,000 will be made available for countywide projects led by the VCS Alliance, the council’s One Point Think Family, culture and sport, and education and skills services and NHS Harrogate; and District Foundation Trust’s health visiting and school nursing teams.

The school holidays can be a challenging time for many families, with increased costs, childcare difficulties and no access to free school meals resulting in some youngsters going hungry. The impact for children living in poverty returning after the school holiday has also been shown to be detrimental to educational attainment, health and wellbeing.

In 2017/18, more than four million children in the UK were living in poverty; this equates to nine children in a class of 30. In County Durham, approximately 21,000 children (24 per cent) live in poverty, and 18 per cent live in low-income households.

Poverty harms children’s health and damages their futures, but also impacts on society, costing the UK £30 billion per year.

The Holiday Activities with Food group is part of the council’s Child Poverty Working Group and aims to eradicate child poverty in County Durham. The group will work with the AAPs and other local partners to ensure the new activities not only meet each community’s need but leave a lasting legacy.

This will be achieved by incorporating the following key themes:

  • Healthy eating – tasty and nutritious food will be served, simple, affordable recipes will be shared and support will be available on budgeting
  • Benefits of physical activity – encouraging the daily mile and promoting the use of walking and cycling routes in County Durham
  • Financial wellbeing – access to information about fuel poverty, benefits and welfare checks and opportunities to sign up to credit unions
  • Parent/carer support – access to information on what help is available, how to access it and where to turn for additional advice
  • Adult learning – access to information about local courses

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Cabinet member for children and young people’s services at Durham County Council, said: “We know the school holidays can be a challenging time for families, with parents and carers facing the additional expense of keeping youngsters entertained and fed throughout the day. Our aim is to support families to ensure every child has access to the opportunities they need to reach their potential.”

Cllr Angela Surtees, the council’s Cabinet member for social inclusion, said: “By allocating this funding through our AAPs, we can work with communities all across the county to identify and support projects that will make an immediate difference while reducing stigma and helping bring about lasting benefits.”

The AAP funding will be allocated to enhance existing or planned projects during the summer, Easter, Christmas and half-term holidays up until September 2020 and will go through a robust appraisal and monitoring process.

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