Yesterday’s budget stirred up many reactions from our team at Magic Breakfast, as it will have done for families across the country. We felt hope and opportunity, as well as a pressing need for action.
£289 million was committed for schools and local authorities to offer what’s known as ‘wraparound childcare’. What this means is that free childcare will be offered before and after school (between 8am and 6pm) to all primary school children in England, with roll out starting in September 2024 and continuing into 2026. This is a huge step forward in acknowledging the need to support families.
So, what does this mean for the 4 million children at risk of hunger every day in the uk?
Having free childcare both relieves pressure on household budgets and gives parents greater access to work opportunities. At a time when all of us are navigating a cost of living crisis and the aftermath of a pandemic, this is a vital step in supporting families in the fight against financial insecurity.
It’s not clear how the country’s pressing issue of child hunger will be tackled directly, but there is a real opportunity to do so as part of this funding.
We know the incredible benefits of a school breakfast on children’s entire lives, from educational attainment to healthy growth. This is why we’ve been calling on the Government to invest directly in providing more morning meals to children most at risk of starting their day without access to food.
While the Chancellor did not mention this specifically in his budget, morning childcare goes hand-in-hand with breakfast, leaving a fantastic opportunity to provide the most important meal of the day to thousands of hungry children every morning.
However, due to the timelines of the funding, children suffering from hunger won’t see any of these benefits until September 2024 at the very earliest. By then, they will have missed out on a vast amount of learning, nutrition and social growth as a result of morning hunger.
What needs to happen next?
Firstly, we at Magic Breakfast will be working to ensure that breakfast is considered front and centre in how this funding is spent. We will also offer guidance to local authorities and schools on our evidence-based approach to rolling out breakfast in schools that is free from barriers and judgement, so that all children feel able to benefit from it.
We believe that the Government must make it clear that breakfast goes hand in hand with childcare and include breakfast in the expenditure. With the support of Magic Breakfast and other sector experts, there must be clear guidelines rolled out on how the funding should be spent so we can ensure the best quality childcare, the best possible breakfast provision and the best start to the day for every child.
And this cannot be a short-term project that then passes over a financial burden to parents and schools two years down the line. A long-term funding commitment must also be made to ensure the longevity and sustainability of these positive changes.
Above all, the timeline for this funding must be sped up. Hungry children cannot wait. Their lives and their futures are affected every day that we delay this much-needed change.
Though there is more to be done, there is no doubt that this is a positive development for families across the uk and we look forward to working alongside the government and our friends across the sector to implement the necessary next steps.