LEADING Coventry City Cabinet members are calling on the Government to adequately fund the fight against food poverty for children.
Coun Richard Brown, Cabinet Member for Strategic Finance and Resources, and Coun Kevin Maton, Cabinet Member for Education, made the call after Government claims that funding has already been provided to cover additional Free School Meals for children across the country.
Coun Brown said: “A £63million grant that the Government is referencing was announced on June 11, 2020, with Coventry’s share totalling £479,000.
“This funding was never directed at school pupils specifically but at the wider food need in the city.
“The grant guidance that came with it stated: ‘The Government anticipates that most of the funding will be spent within 12 weeks’ which takes us up to 11 September, so how can there now be an expectation about using this now so long after it was meant to be used up?
“No further funding has been announced in the intervening four months and the facts are that nothing has been supplied to cover the additional costs related to Covid-19 in our schools.”
Coun Maton added: “By July, an estimated £250,000 of costs had already been incurred in order to supply city children with essential expenditure on food and supplies in accordance with Government-directed priorities.
“No money was granted for staffing costs.
“It is, therefore, disingenuous to argue this is available to support those eligible for free school meals especially given the Government expected that the funding announced would be spent in September.”
Both councillors praised the city’s response in feeding vulnerable children and families which includes work by community organisations, supported by the Council.
Coun Maton said the work being carried out in the city was ‘excellent’ and the authority was continuing to work closely with community organisations and partners in schemes including the Coventry Food Network.
He added the scale of need in Coventry and logistics involved meant it could only work with a strong partnership between community organisations, private and social enterprise organisations and the council.
Coun Brown added the council offered officer time, support in accessing grant-funding and providing short-term resources to procure supplies where there was increased activity as a result of Covid-19.
“However, without substantial additional Government funding, continued support for the rest of the year and meeting new or additional commitments – such as the approaching need for Free School Meal provision over Christmas and the increasing number of children’s services referrals – will more than likely exhaust the level of grant funding we have received so far.
“The Government needs to stop pretending it is funding the additional spending on essential services in cities like Coventry and fund them properly.”
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