by Kenny Flint, Health Improvement Service, Salford City Council
GMPA’s Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan calls for boroughs to support and coordinate provision of activities with food during school holidays, and we are pleased to share stories and good practice such as Salford’s Healthy Holiday Voucher Scheme.
Salford City Council delivered a food voucher scheme during July and August 2019, to offer help and support for some of the most vulnerable families in Salford who access the current system of free school meals. This was developed to complement the existing programmes of summer play schemes and Save for Summer, which were delivered by Salford Community Leisure, Integrated Youth Support, Life Centre, VCSE’s and other partners. The Healthy Holiday Voucher Scheme was funded by the Health Improvement Service, Salford Assist and the Booth Charity.
The issue of ‘Holiday Hunger’ has been significantly increasing in recent years with many charities reporting that the pressure on food banks has doubled during school holidays. Children who would usually be entitled to free school meals cannot access them during the holidays. There is evidence to suggest that many children are regularly skipping meals, which has a detrimental impact upon their behaviour and cognitive development. Many families in Salford are forced to face the choice of heating their home or feeding their children.
Families who met certain criteria were provided with an ALDI voucher equating to an additional £30 per child, to help during the 6 weeks of the summer holidays. ALDI was the chosen supplier as the organisation has an existing agreement with the company via Salford Assist, Salford’s local welfare assistance scheme
We contacted eligible parents via school communication systems and social media, and required completion of an application form and an eligibility assessment conducted by the Health Improvement Service. After this assessment, the parent and most accessible neighbourhood Gateway were notified of the successful application and given a unique ID number. Upon production of the unique ID number and a form of ID at the chosen Gateway, the parent was then issued with the vouchers. Over 70% of residents found the application process for the scheme ‘Very Easy’ to complete and just under 70% found it ‘Very Easy’ to collect the vouchers. Some of the feedback can be viewed below.
“I found the scheme very easy and of course every little helps with hungry mouths to feed so thank you.”
“It helped me and my family out massively, thank you. Due to my household being on a low income, buying food is a struggle, especially in the school holidays. So this was very much appreciated by family.”
“Single mum of two teen daughters on ESA so massively helped with the grocery shop during the school holidays as the girls want to snack and eat more when home all day. Enabled me to buy extra fruit and keep freezer stocked up. Thank you for the support during this time very much appreciated.”
“I think this scheme has been very helpful! You don’t realise how much extra shopping you need for children when they are not in school. I would definitely apply again if I got the chance to. Thank you also for providing this service.”
“Just helps people who are on low income and not only on low income but the way everything’s going up it makes life a little better to be offered help, I’m in the middle of moving too and it’s help me a lot to buy food for the children.”
“Being a single mum of 2 and struggling at the best of times. This really helped feed the extra hungry pair all day and night whilst still leaving me with money to be able to take them out to have fun.”
“Bought activity sets as well as lunch for my 5 year old with ASD. Keeps him happy in the afternoons on rainy days.”
Recommendations given to streamline the scheme were to review the process of assessing eligibility to ensure it is quicker and more accurate. This would include greater clarity on the eligibility criteria in relation to Salford residency, or attending a Salford school. Similarly, greater clarity in relation to children attending nursery, such as an Excel formula to quickly calculate from a date of birth if someone is eligible. This could be achieved by creating a bespoke database.
As of September 2019, during the 8-week period there were just over 2,100 applications to the Healthy Holiday Scheme, resulting in a total of 3,667 children being supported. This is 42% of all the children in Salford who are eligible for free school meals. Salford City Council would like to continue the scheme next year.