Nearly £1million spent on ensuring Northumberland children do not go hungry

County bosses spent more than £800,000 of efforts to fight holiday hunger following campaigning by England footballer Marcus Rashford.

By James Harrison
Friday, 11th June 2021, 4:02 pm
Updated Friday, 11th June 2021, 4:19 pm
Northumberland County Council has spent £800,000 ensuring some of the area's neediest children do not go hungry during school holidays.
Northumberland County Council has spent £800,000 ensuring some of the area's neediest children do not go hungry during school holidays.

Campaigning by England footballer Marcus Rashford led to almost £1million being spent on supporting vulnerable families in Northumberland over the February half term and Easter holidays.

Earlier this year, the Three Lions and Manchester United striker was at the forefront of efforts to force the government to boost funding for youngsters who faced going hungry.

And as a result, more than 17,900 vouchers were handed out just for food, with further payments on offer to help households with heating and other utility bills.

School closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic prompted fears over how pupils from some of the poorest households would cope without access to their usual free school meal provision over school holidays.

But new figures have revealed support worth a combined total of £815,565 was handed over during February half term and Easter breaks.

The extent of help provided has been laid out in a report due to be discussed by Northumberland County Council’s families and children’s services scrutiny Committee when it meets next week (Thursday, June 17).

Rashford, who scored in England’s final warm-up match against Romania ahead of the start of the Euro 2020 football tournament, has campaigned throughout the coronavirus pandemic for the government to provide more support for vulnerable children.

More than half of the county council’s funding, worth £445,755, went towards free school meal (FSM) vouchers issued by schools to parents through the ‘HUGGG’ system, with £263,295 of this handed out during the Easter holidays alone.

Across both school breaks, a further 5,986 food parcels were handed out by schools through existing arrangements to the tune of more than £200,000.

And a combined total of £144,975 was paid out to support parents and carers with increased utility bills.

As well as direct efforts to combat holiday hunger among children with financial aid, a series of events were also offered across the county during the Easter holidays through the Holiday Activity Fund.

This provided spaces for almost 1,500 youngsters in Northumberland, the majority of which were taken up by children who qualified for free school meals.

Of the £992,000 allocated to the local authority through the Government’s Winter Covid support grant, at least £815,565 has been spent.