27 May 2022

Our response to the Chancellor’s cost of living statement

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Written by By Peter Whitehead, Policy Officer at Magic Breakfast 

Home > What we do > News and views > Our response to the Chancellor’s cost of living statement

Today’s announcement will, thankfully, alleviate some of the pressure on households in the UK with the Chancellor targeting the 8m most disadvantaged and vulnerable. Many of the children and young people we work with are in families that fall into this bracket, and we are acutely aware of the positive impact this will have.

Let’s look at the good bits. In the longer term, the plan to raise benefits by this September’s will have a positive impact on those who rely on our benefits system. The Chancellor’s universal support for all Britons with energy costs is also welcome.

The scale of the problems facing families cannot be overstated. The anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe – who has done more than most to highlight the cost of living crisis – recently commented on an alarming rise in families asking for food products that can be eaten cold from food banks, as they cannot afford to heat their meals.

Despite there being some good things in the Chancellor’s statement, there does remain a gap in his support, with no targeted support for families with children. We know that families with children use more energy. We know that the difficult energy environment we face has, largely, prompted the Chancellor’s intervention. We know that families with children have additional costs – in food and in childcare, for instance. And data from the Office for National Statistics tells us that families with children are worse off1. But the flat rate of support means that families are not targeted with additional state assistance to help with the rising cost of living in 2022.

At Magic Breakfast, we recognise that the impact of these multiple price rises mean more children going to school without food. Empty stomachs means a lack of concentration for the key part of the day, leading to behavioural issues and reduced attainment. Not only are children not given the chance to fulfil their full potential, it’s maintaining a cycle of poverty for the future.

By ensuring free breakfast is provided in all schools, the Chancellor could take steps towards future-proofing our economy. For every £1 spent on breakfast, there’s a £50 economic return to the country. Right now, as our latest report shows, just 1 in 4 disadvantaged children are being reached by breakfast provision{efn_note]Hidden Hunger – The State of UK Breakfast Provision 2022 | Magic Breakfast[/efn_note]. That means 75% of disadvantaged children could be missing out on access to breakfast, and that’s even likelier if they attend one of the 1 in 5 UK schools that has no breakfast provision at all.

At Magic Breakfast, we have doubled the number of schools we work with since the pandemic, and at the same time, the uptake of the provision within schools has also doubled. And this was prior to the main impact being felt from the cost of living price rises. It is a chronic situation.

According to the Food Foundation, 2.6 million children are living in households experiencing food insecurityThis means, 2.6 million children are at risk of starting the day hungry. And in just 3 months, the number of households experiencing food insecurity has grown by 57% (since January 2022). When we asked the schools we work with what they believe influences the food choices in your pupil’s homes, the top response was Finances.

In England, we have asked the Government to provide a cash injection of £75 million to help breakfast reach the children who need it most. In Scotland, we’re calling for the Scottish Government to turn promises into policy and deliver on their manifesto commitments to ensure free school breakfast provision for all primary and special school pupils.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be visiting 10 Downing Street with some of our Youth Campaigners to put the question to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, directly, and will be speaking to MPs about the issue. We hope you’ll join us, by signing our letter here.

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30 November 2023

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