The cost of living crisis is affecting families across the UK. As prices rise so do the pressures on people’s everyday lives. Today’s rise in the energy price cap to £3,549 per year is another squeeze on living standards.
The Government needs to act. It needs to ensure that reactive policy measures aren’t just a knee jerk response to a crisis but are instead measures that build the society we all want to see. At Magic Breakfast, we believe in the need for universal breakfast provision in schools not as a solution in itself, but as part of a range of measures to build a society dedicated to supporting children and young people to access the future they deserve.
Policies like breakfast provision not only help tackle the crisis now, but also go a long way in tackling disadvantage long term. The evidence shows the important role of breakfast in closing the educational attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, as well as increasing economic opportunities.
The colossal rise in energy prices is one of the most visible symbols of the crisis, but it isn’t the only issue facing schools and families. Schools are on commercial energy tariffs and face unlimited bills which, with school budgets being continually squeezed, puts vital frontline services at risk meaning school leaders are facing tougher and tougher choices. Many schools are paying upwards of £50,000 on energy bills annually, almost £1,000 per week. This unsustainable position puts services like breakfast provision at risk.
At the same time, food bills are rising too, pushed higher and higher by inflation whilst real terms wages fall. Families are not just struggling between heating and eating, they’re struggling to do either. With Scottish schools having returned to the classroom this month and English schools returning next month, children and young people are again at risk of going to school hungry.
The 2020s has seen the rising tide of pressure on our living standards hit low-income families and their children particularly hard. From a pandemic, through to a cost of living crisis, people are being swept away so quickly that established traditional deprivation measures are ineffective and struggling to keep up. This is why targeted and limited measures like Free School Lunches in most places and the English National School Breakfast Programme simply aren’t enough to support families living on the edge.
Governments across the UK are publicly committed to ensuring the futures of children and young people are shielded amidst the crisis we are all facing. We support government ambitions and are always ready to work alongside them to deliver positive change for children and young people and bridge the gap between crisis and action. Our recent paper, Funding a Better Start looks at how schools can deploy their budgets to deliver breakfasts.
The picture this blog paints is bleak with a cacophony of economic alarm bells ringing from rising inflation to food bills, to today’s energy price rise announcement. But, by investing in our future, tomorrow doesn’t have to be. In the 1,000+ schools we work with, we champion breakfast being accessible to everyone. Breakfast provision, which focuses on hunger and seeks to remove barriers and stigma, allows us to reach over 200,000 children and young people each and every school morning. Our model ensures no child or young person starts the day too hungry to learn.