On Wednesday 3 July 2019 the Work and Pensions Committee and Education Committee will meet together in Parliament to investigate the problems - including hunger – of School holiday poverty, when parents have to find money for more childcare and meals kids are not getting at school.
Both Committees are aware that school holidays can place additional burdens on families. Low-income parents are at particular risk of experiencing financial difficulties during the holidays, because of extra childcare costs and the absence of free school meals for their children.
Save the Children and other organisations have raised concerns about the impact that school holidays can have on families on a low income. The APPG on Hunger's Hungry Holidays 2017 report cited research estimating that the loss of free school meals adds between £30 and £40 per week to parents' outgoings during school holidays.
The report also estimated that up to 3 million children are at risk of going hungry in the school holidays—1 million children who receive free school meals during term time, and another 2 million children who are ineligible for free school meals but are growing up in households in in-work poverty.
Childcare provision and costs can also be a problem for families during school holidays, so the Committees will also look at how well the Government's 30 hours free childcare offer for 3 and 4 year-olds is working for parents in practice.
Six months on from the Work and Pensions Committee report that said Universal Credit childcare support actually acts “a barrier” for parents returning to work or looking for a better paid job - problems that are exacerbated when children are at home full time in the holidays - the Committee is also publishing DWP’s “second attempt” at the Government’s official response.
The Work and Pensions Committee rejected the Government’s first response to its report: “Dismissive, disrespectful” Government response treats Committee and witnesses “like dirt” .
Shortly afterward, DWP agreed that its responses would change , and the second Government response (attached) in the Committee’s inquiry into support for childcare costs under Universal Credit being published today echoes that intent, with a new and different tone:
”The Government has carefully considered the Committee’s initial and subsequent report and is very grateful to the claimants who provided personal testimony and to the individuals and organisations that provided evidence. Indeed, the then Secretary of State met with the claimants to hear from them first hand following the inquiry hearing. We believe that the changes that we are making will help parents such as those that took the time to share their experiences with the Committee ….”
Disappointingly, however, the substance of the response is unchanged, with DWP again rejecting the central WPSC recommendations made to overcome the problematic features of Universal Credit. It continues: “Nonetheless we have taken the recommendations seriously and are making progress in addressing a number of them in a manner, and at a pace that, doesn’t compromise competing UC programme priorities …”