Report published: USA initiatives to tackle school holiday hunger

Food poverty has been prominent in the headlines for the past few years. It’s an increasing issue across the UK and last year Trussel Trust, the food bank charity, reported that they gave out almost a million food parcels – an increase of 347,000 from the previous year.

Alongside this, school holiday hunger is a real problem for those families whose children normally receive a free school meal during term time. Providing an extra meal over the school holidays is a real struggle for some families and can cause anxiety and stress. This means that there is a real concern that some families will struggle to meet the costs to feed their children over the school holidays.

The Northern Housing Consortium are aware of various different projects being carried out and supported by NHC members and their partners around relieving some of this stress and the financial pressures faced by families struggling over school holidays.

Recently the North East Child Poverty Commission hosted a seminar in the North East, supported by the NHC, to look at the issue of holiday hunger and how to tackle this through a more co-ordinated approach and showcasing some of the activities already taking place. One of the speakers at this seminar was Lindsay Graham, the founder of Lindsay Graham Limited (LGL), who specialises in giving advice and support to local authorities, government agencies, voluntary organisations, and the commercial sector on all aspects of school food and health promotion.

Lindsey travelled to the USA over the summer of 2014 to investigate community projects that address school holiday child hunger. Her report, published on 22nd October 2014, is entitled170 Days: the approximate number of non-school days in the year in the UK that free school meal pupils do not receive their school lunch. This is often the only regular hot meal that is available to them during term time.

The full report can be found here.

The NHC would be keen to hear from members around any work programmes/activity member organisations are involved in on tackling food poverty and/or school holiday hunger. Please contact satty.rai@northern-consortium.org.uk.

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission: The State of Nation Report

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty (SMCP) Commission monitors the progress of government and others in improving social mobility and reducing child poverty in the United Kingdom. The Commission published its second annual State of Nation Report in October 2014.

According to the commission’s report, “absolute child poverty increased by 300,000 between 2010-11 and 2012-13” and “independent experts expect child poverty to increase significantly over the next few years”. It also says that “working poverty after housing costs is rising”.

The report says 1.4 million children are now in “relative poverty” due to the effects of rising rent and mortgage costs since 2010, despite the rate of relative poverty in the general population falling to its lowest level since 1984.

The report also states that while a strong economic recovery and a record number of people in work are welcome, the social recovery needed to get Britain back on track to abolish child poverty has not happened. Instead it predicts 2020 is set to mark the end of the first decade since records began without a fall in absolute poverty.

The report warns that “2020 could mark a watershed between an era in which for decades there have been rising living standards shared by all and a future era where rising living standards by-pass the poorest in society”.

What the report says is going well:

  • Relative poverty is at a 30-year low
  • Unemployment down to 6.2%
  • 85% support on childcare costs for eligible families
  • Twice as many poor children achieving the basics at GCSE than in 2005
  • The Pupil Premium – giving additional funding to schools with poorer pupils to help close the attainment gap
  • 7% increase since 2011/12 in ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ FE colleges
  • Number of children in workless households is at an all-time low
  • 40% of young people entering higher education
  • £735 million invested in widening participation in higher education

What the report says is not going so well:

  • 4 in 10 children missing out on “good parenting”
  • 6 out of 10 poor children not getting the basics at GCSE
  • Only 15% of workplaces offering apprenticeships
  • 8% of 16-17-year-olds and 16% of 18-24-year-olds still not in education, employment or training
  • Long-term youth unemployment (more than one year) double the level it was before the recession
  • 1 in 5 children living in absolute poverty
  • £40 a week fall in average earnings since April 2009
  • Home ownership for those younger than 25 has halved in the past 20 years
  • Most advantaged are six times more likely to go to university
  • Top employers recruit from an average of 20 out of over 115 universities

The report offers a series of recommendations that – if implemented by 2020 – it feels would”prevent Britain becoming a permanently divided society and ensure there is a social recovery alongside the economic recovery”.

The recommendations include:

  • Reform child poverty targets
  • ‘Working poor’ exempted from austerity measures
  • Higher pay for the best teachers to go to the most challenging schools
  • All children to be school-ready at age five by 2025
  • National parenting campaign to be launched
  • Illiteracy and innumeracy ended for primary-school leavers by 2025
  • Long-term youth unemployment ended by 2020
  • Britain to become a Living Wage country by 2025
  • Number of housing options increased
  • Unpaid internships ended by 2020
  • Cap on student numbers at individual universities to be removed

City Growth Commission Final Report – NHC on-the-day briefing

For the last year, the ten members of the City Growth Commission have been looking at how best to enable the UK’s major cities to drive growth and respond to the fiscal and economic challenges of the future.

The Commission published its final report today (Wednesday 22nd October) and this briefing aims to summarise the key recommendations of relevance to Northern Housing Consortium members, and outline the Commission’s case for cities and suggested way forward.

Consortium Procurement exploring Personal Protective Equipment framework

Health and Safety is a very important aspect of our working lives: “It is a requirement of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 that employers may make appropriate PPE clothing and equipment available to employees exposed to health and safety hazards”.

To enhance our product portfolio and improve our services to members, the Northern Housing Consortium/Consortium Procurement is considering creating a procurement framework based upon the supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to include clothing and corporate wear. It is anticipated that this will provide all members with a choice of one-stop-shop(s) within their own geographic area, for the provision of all PPE to include protection for eyes, ears, head, feet, body, wet, dry, and corporate clothing as well as first aid, “slips trips and falls” and respiratory equipment.

It would be a valuable contribution if we can ask our members (notably those involved in procurement) to advise of your possible interest in accessing such a framework and to send us an estimate of your total expenditure on such product – it is likely that financial accounting teams could identify annual expenditure against relative suppliers which when totalled will give the detail which we need for our exercise; please forward to mark.cant@consortiumprocurement.org.uk. Alternatively if you would like an informal discussion please contact Mark Cant on 0191 566 1033.

NHC calls on local authorities to continue support of vulnerable tenants

The Northern Housing Consortium is calling on local authorities not to leave vulnerable people in the lurch when central government emergency funding comes to an end in April 2015.

Local welfare assistance grants, which support those in emergency situations to obtain essential household items, food and funding for heating and transport, will be cut next year, leaving many concerned about the impact this will have on some of the most disadvantaged families.

To help counter the problem of accessing emergency goods, the Northern Housing Consortium (a not-for-profit organisation) offers a service called Smarterbuys Essentials, which provides local authorities and housing providers with access to new, low cost household items which can be ordered in emergency situations.

To ensure vulnerable residents continue to be supported in emergency situations many charities and housing providers are now looking to Smarterbuys Essentials to see how the service can help them.

Tracy Harrison, Commercial Director at the Northern Housing Consortium, commented: “The Smarterbuys Essentials service has proved popular as a simple and transparent means by which our members can give vulnerable tenants and residents access to the things they need in times of crisis.”

In Stockton-on-Tees and Northumberland, the Northern Housing Consortium is working with social, economic and financial inclusion services provider, Five Lamps to provide items to vulnerable and disadvantaged tenants, within the context of wider Welfare Assistance programmes.

The partnership provides white goods and furniture to tenants in emergency situations using the NHC’s Smarterbuys Essentials service. In 2013-14, more than 300 Smarterbuys items were provided across the Stockton and Northumberland areas.

One Stockton-on-Tees resident, who received new items through the scheme commented: “I am so grateful for this help getting a new fridge and washing machine. Access to this kind of services has made a massive impact on me getting back my independence.”

Five Lamps Welfare Assistance Manager, Louise Robinson commented: “This is a service which is simple and it works. It provides a service which can really make a difference to the lives of our tenants when an emergency situation occurs. Having used Smarterbuys Essentials for just over a year, we have found the service to be very efficient and responsive with quality items being supplied and fitted, often within two working days.”

Five Lamps’ Chief Executive, Graeme Oram, adds: “We understand the position that local authorities have been placed in and share the concern of many support agencies across the country, and the authorities themselves, that reduced services, or potentially no services in some areas, will impact adversely on vulnerable people in the most disadvantaged communities.”

For more information on the Northern Housing Consortium or the Smarterbuys Essentials service, visit www.northern-consortium.org.uk/smarterbuys.