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11 Nov 2020

Government's £400m winter grant scheme to support vulnerable children and their families
BY Tom Walker

Plans include an expansion of a holiday activities programme

Plans include an expansion of a holiday activities programme
photo: Shutterstock.com/BAZA Production

The government has been forced to make a U-turn and to spend more than £400m to support vulnerable children and their families in England.

Following a high-profile campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford, the government announced plans for a winter grant scheme, to be run by councils and local authorities.

Plans include supporting vulnerable families with food and bills, as well as an expansion of a holiday food and activities programme.

The latter's inclusion in the funding programme was welcomed by physical activity body, ukactive.

"We praise the decision to expand the existing Holiday Activities and Food scheme," said Jack Shakespeare, ukactive's director of children, young people, families and research.

“ukactive has been lobbying government since the publication of our Generation Inactive report in September 2018, to recognise the health issues surrounding inactive school holidays, and invest in interventions to tackle this societal issue.

“Research by ukactive shows that children and young people suffer a loss in fitness levels of up to 74% over the summer holidays, with the fitness of those from low-income families falling 18 times faster than their more affluent peers.

“This mirrors ‘summer learning loss’ – a report by the Education Policy Institute shows that schoolchildren that were eligible for free school meals for 80% of their time at school were on average 24 months behind their classmates by the time they took their GCSEs. It is also estimated that 66% of the attainment gap can be explained by summer learning loss.

“The COVID-19 crisis has magnified inequalities, with lengthy school closures and strict social restrictions meaning that the most vulnerable children have begun to see their health, wellbeing and education outcomes fall further and further behind.

“This is a perfect storm that will have a catastrophic effect on millions of children and young people across the country unless we drive solutions that cater for the interconnectedness of these challenges."



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